Three Important Terms To Understand When It Comes To Criminal Charges Involving Stolen Property

When it comes to unauthorized access to or seizure of another's property, there are a few different possible criminal burglary offense law charges a perpetrator could be hit with. Understanding the differences between what these various charges mean and what penalties they entail is important for any defendant. 

As with any type of criminal charge, theft, robbery, and burglary are classified by severity. Degrees of severity could be judged by either the significance of the threat made to other parties or the dollar amount of items being stolen.

Three important terms to understand when it comes to stolen property or unauthorized access to property are theft (larceny), robbery, and burglary. The following are brief explanations of each of these terms:

Theft or larceny

Among all of the crimes mentioned here, theft is generally considered to be the most basic. Theft and larceny are for the most part interchangeable terms.

Theft is an instance where a perpetrator takes another's property without authorization. The perpetrator is generally intending to keep the stolen property permanently. 

The severity of theft charges depends largely on how much the stolen property was worth. If stolen property is not very valuable, the perpetrator may be charged with only a misdemeanor. Theft of more valuable property could constitute a felony. 

The monetary amounts that distinguish theft as a misdemeanor or felony vary by state


Robbery is typically considered a slightly more severe crime than general theft. Robbery is more severe because it involves either the instillment of fear in a victim or physical force to deprive the victim of his or her property.

If a criminal forcefully demands the belongings of another or physically snatches belongings away from another person, robbery has taken place. 

In many cases, both theft and robbery will be charged over the same incident. Robbery is generally considered a felony in most states. 


A charge of burglary can be made even if the perpetrator did not actually steal any items. Burglary is typically considered any instance where an individual broke into a property with the intent of committing some sort of crime on the inside.

If an individual breaks into a property in order to steal items but does not find any desirable items to steal, that individual can be charged with burglary if caught for the simple act of breaking and entering. However, it might not be possible for the prosecutor to charge this individual with either burglary or robbery.