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Theft, robbery, burglary: What is the difference?

If you allegedly steal something in New York, you could face criminal theft, robbery or burglary charges depending on what law enforcement officials allege you did and the way in which you allegedly did it. While all three of these white collar theft crimes are similar in nature, FindLaw explains that each one is a distinct separate crime

If you face theft charges per se, you may discover that your ticket or charging document says larceny instead of theft. The two words are synonyms and mean that you allegedly stole someone's personal property, intending to permanently deprive him or her of it.


A robbery charge means not only that you allegedly stole someone's personal property with the intent to permanently deprive him or her of it, but also that you threatened your alleged victim with a weapon such as a gun or knife. Your alleged victim must have believed that you would do him or her bodily harm if (s)he did not relinquish the property to you.


Surprisingly, you need not steal anything at all to receive a burglary conviction. All the prosecutor must prove is that you entered a building illegally for the purpose of committing a crime once inside. It makes no different whether you intended to steal something. You could have intended to commit another crime instead. Nor does it make any difference if you actually carried out your intent. All the prosecutor must prove is your illegal entry and your intent.

This is general educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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