Differences Between Theft, Robbery & Burglary in Pennsylvania
The holidays are the most joyful time of year; however, all the good cheer, great food and gift giving may be a distraction from the risks the season can also bring. Break-ins, porch pirates and pickpockets are more popular than ever this time of year as the hustle and bustle of the holidays can leave us vulnerable to thieves. While theft, robbery and burglary are often used interchangeably, they’re actually very different offenses when defined by Pennsylvania Law. We’ll explain the differences between theft, robbery and burglary in Pennsylvania and the possible penalties they involve.
As one of the most commonly committed crimes in the country, theft is known by a number of different titles; larceny, petty theft, grand theft and more depending on various states. This crime is defined as taking someone else’s property without consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its use or possession. Theft can be committed in a few different ways, including the use of deception, extortion or wrongfully carrying something away.
Theft can pertain to the taking of both tangible property, such as money, physical goods or other objects you can transport or move, or intangible property, including services, utilities or valuable information. Since theft does not involve interaction with the victim, it is almost always classified as a “property crime.”
While often referred to as “theft plus,” robbery is always a felony, or “violent crime,” due to an additional element that involves force, assault or the physical removal of property from another person. If at any time during the theft, the victim is threatened, in fear of harm, forced to remove the property, injured in any way, the crime is considered a robbery.
Each of these additional factors can impact the severity of the punishment. For example, if the robbery involves serious bodily harm to the victim, it’s considered a first degree felony which can be punishable by more than 10 years in prison. If there are no threats or harm as a result of taking the property, the crime is a third degree robbery with a maximum sentence of seven years prison time.
Other factors can also influence the conviction of the crime. When drugs or controlled substances are the goal of the robbery, it’s automatically a first degree offense, while the use of a gun during the robbery requires a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in jail.
The crime of burglary is closely related to that of robbery without the act or threat of harm to the victim. Instead, burglary specifically involves entering a building or piece of property with the intent to commit a crime inside. You can be convicted of burglary even without taking anything, since the crime focuses on the violation of someone else’s home or property based on the intent to commit another crime. And because of how this stature is specifically defined, a burglary crime may also include trespassing with the intent to commit murder, rape, theft, robbery or other offenses as well.
Burglary can be classified in the following ways:
– Object of the crime is to obtain drugs
– Building is a home or someone is present inside at the time of the crime
– The building entered is not a home and no one is present at the time of the crime
– A break in occurs without the intent to commit a crime inside (considered criminal trespass)
– A building is entered without break-in and without the intent to commit a crime (considered third degree criminal trespass)
Reversely, there are three primary defenses to burglary, which include if the building was abandoned, open to the public or the person was “licensed or privileged” to enter.
If you’re seeking legal advice about theft, robbery and burglary or want more information about the classifications and punishments of each crime in Pennsylvania, contact us to meet with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys today.