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Criminal Defense Blog Post

What Is the Difference Between Burglary and Robbery?

Here is an excellent example of burglary. Quang Ho, 24, a resident of San Jose, was arrested in April in connection with two residential burglaries in Saratoga. Deputies from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office were called in to investigate suspicious activity and arrived to find Ho and an unnamed juvenile attempting to break into a house. The deputies apprehended Ho and arrested him on suspicion of burglary, possession of burglary tools, attempted burglary and conspiracy. He was charged with burglary rather than robbery since there were no victims present.

Many people confuse burglary and robbery, using the terms interchangeably. They are in fact two distinct felonies carrying different penalties. Under the California Penal Code, you commit burglary if you enter any form of building, structure, vessel or locked vehicle with intent to commit petty theft or any felony.

The critical element, which a prosecutor has to prove beyond reasonable doubt, is the intent to commit petty theft or a felony when entering the building. If you enter a store with benign intentions and only decide to steal merchandise once inside the store, you have not committed burglary.  Furthermore, you do not need to have used force to enter the building. Going through an open door with the intent to commit a petty theft or felony also constitutes burglary.

The most severe form of burglary is burglary of an inhabited structure, vessel or vehicle, whether occupied or not, which carries a maximum sentence of six years’ imprisonment.

Robbery, on the other hand, occurs when you use force or fear to take personal property from the possession of another person against their will. Use of fear is defined as causing fear of an injury to the victim, the victim's property or family member, or the property or person of anyone in the victim's company at the time of the robbery.

The penalties for robbery vary depending on the circumstances. The maximum sentence of nine years’ imprisonment is for first-degree robbery.

If you have been charged with burglary or robbery, an experienced California criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights.

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Creech Liebow & Kraus
333 West San Carlos Street, Suite 1600
San Jose, California, 95110-2726 USA