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How are theft, robbery and burglary different from each other?

If you face charges in California for theft, robbery or burglary, you may be unclear as to exactly what it is that law enforcement officers say you allegedly did or why they charged you with one crime as opposed to the others.

All three of these crimes are property crimes and related to each other, but they are distinctly different when it comes to what the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you.

Theft

To convict you of theft, which is often also called larceny, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally and unlawfully stole the personal property of someone else. (S)he also must prove that you intended to permanently deprive your alleged victim of the personal property you allegedly stole.

Robbery

Basically, robbery is theft or larceny by means of threat or physical force. In other words, to convict you of robbery, the prosecutor must prove not only that you intentionally and unlawfully stole someone else’s personal property, but also that you threatened your alleged victim with a weapon in order to accomplish your alleged purpose. Alternatively, the prosecutor can convict you of robbery by proving that you threatened your alleged victim sufficiently to put him or her in fear of physical danger if (s)he did not accede to your demands.

Burglary

To convict you of burglary, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you stole anything at all. Rather, all (s)he must prove is that you entered a home or a business unlawfully, intending to commit a crime once you were there. In addition, you did not have to actually break into the home or business in order to gain entry. If you entered through an unlocked door or window, that is sufficient for a burglary conviction.

Surprisingly enough, burglary is the one theft crime where you did not have to steal anything in order to receive a conviction. It is your alleged intent to commit a crime – any crime – once you entered the premises that counts, not whether or not you fulfilled your intent. If the prosecutor proves your intent beyond a reasonable doubt, you committed burglary.

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