Man stealing woman's purse

Robbery, Burglary & Theft

Robbery, burglary and theft all seem to be used interchangeably, but they actually mean much different things. They have different legal definitions, different consequences, and can follow a different process when someone is arrested.

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested on robbery, burglary, or theft charges, you will want to understand what each term means and how the case will play out. Knowing the difference between robbery, burglary, and theft is also important for the bail bonds process.

When you need to make a bail bond arrangement, the bond agency will cover the monetary amount of your bail so that you can be released from jail before the trial. In return, you provide them with some form of money or collateral that the agency will hold on to. But in order to have the bail bond process run smoothly, you’ll need to understand the difference between robbery, burglary, and theft.


Theft is the most basic definition of the three. In fact, it is actually referred to as an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of more specific definitions for the act of taking something that does not belong to the individual, including robbery and burglary.

Theft can include anything as small as shoplifting a pack of gum from the grocery store to stealing thousands of dollars from your employer. Different classifications of theft, including grand theft, give an idea of how much money or value was stolen.

The act of taking someone else’s possession is considered theft, even if the individual stealing the item does not keep the item for themselves. Whether they discard of the item, sell the item, or give it away, the person who took it is still guilty of theft.


When someone steals from us, we most commonly say that we’ve been “robbed.” But robbery is actually much more than simply taking what isn’t ours. When someone is arrested for robbery, it means that there was a violent component to the theft. If a gun was used during the theft or force was applied to the victim, the act of taking someone else’s property would be qualified as robbery.

Because of the violence associated with the theft, robbery has the most severe consequences of the three. Additional classifications can be added to the term “robbery” to make it more clear what occurred during the act, including “aggravated robbery” or “armed robbery.”

Robbery can also include if the individual used fear or threats to get the item that they wanted. While physically attacking someone or hurting someone in order to take their property is a clear robbery definition, even pointing a gun at someone would make it a robbery charge. Additional threats of saying something will happen if the individual does not hand over their money, cars, watch or other possessions would also make it a robbery charge, even if harm was never actually done.


For a crime to be considered burglary, the individual doing the taking must break into the building to steal the property. Burglary may also include other felony charges if the individual broke into a building to carry out the crime.

It is important to note that burglary and trespassing are actually quite different things. When someone is trespassing, they enter a property but does not have the intent to carry out additional crimes once they enter the building. They are simply somewhere that they don’t belong. But with burglary, the individual who entered the building did so in order to carry out a felony crime, including, but not limited to, theft.

The individual does not need to carry out the actual crime to be charged with burglary. If it is clear that they intended to perform a felony act but were caught before they were able to complete it, they would still be charged with burglary rather than trespassing.

Even though burglary, theft, and robbery are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to know and understand that they are clearly different from one another. While they all involve a theft occurring, the circumstances, consequences, and bail needs will usually look much, much different.

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