Difference Between Burglary and Robbery

bedroom ransacked due to a burglary

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of criminal law, it’s fair to believe that robbery and burglary are the same, or at least very similar charges. However, there are specific differences between burglary and robbery which are important to know if you ever face charges. The theft crime attorneys of Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam explain.

Burglary vs. Robbery: What’s the difference?

When we think of burglary and robbery, we typically think of the act of taking something from someone. While this is true in part, there are certain actions that differentiate burglary and robbery.

To be considered burglary, you must enter a structure, dwelling, or establishment, by force, with the intent to commit a crime within said building. Even if you do not commit the crime once inside, you still can be found guilty of burglary simply for intending to commit the crime.

  • Structure: Structures are not just homes, they can include nonresidential buildings, natural formations (ie. caves), temporary structures like tents, businesses, etc.
  • Force: In the case of burglary, force does not have to be violent. It can mean pushing open a door, lifting an unlocked window, etc.
  • Enter: While entry is important, technically you do not even have to enter the building completely to be found guilty of burglary. For example, if by lifting a window and starting to climb into it you set off an alarm, that can be considered burglary.

Robbery is the taking of something from another person while using force or the threat of force to do it.

  • Person: If another person is not involved in the act of taking something, it is not robbery. For example, this can include something someone is tangibly in possession of or something another person has access to, such as a safe; this would be considered robbery.
  • Force: To be considered robbery, it must be a violent crime–even if the victim does not suffer injury. If any type of force is used or threatened to be used, that fulfills the force requirement. This can include threatening a cashier to open the register even if you do not cause injury to them.


Under Pennsylvania law, burglary is a first-degree felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years. However, if the structure was not meant for overnight accommodation and no one was inside at the time of the entry, it may only be a second-degree felony.

Conversely, robbery is often a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in jail. However, if at the time of the crime, bodily injury is sustained by another, the charge will be upgraded to a second-degree felony, punishable up to 10 years in prison.

Burglary Vs. Robbery: Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam

While the crimes of burglary and robbery may seem similar at face value, they carry drastically different penalties if convicted of the more severe crime. That is why it is critical you have the right defense team by your side if you face such charges. The Scranton criminal defense attorneys of Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam want to work with you and give your case the attention it rightfully deserves. Contact us right now for a free case evaluation: (570) 348-0776.

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