Robbery vs Burglary

If you take something from someone unlawfully, you are asking for criminal charges to be brought against you. That being said, there are hundreds of scenarios that can lead to criminal charges being brought against you for theft, burglary, or robbery. While all three of these seem similar, in reality, they have a few significant differences that can change the charges that are brought against you. For example, it is possible to be charged with burglary but not theft or theft but not robbery.

As criminal defense attorneys in Las Vegas, we specialize in understanding the nuances of Nevada Law, including the difference in robbery vs burglary. Understanding these differences is a great first step to building a sound strategy for your criminal defense case.


What is burglary?

Burglary can be defined as unlawful entry into any structure, not just a home or business, with the intent to commit a crime once inside, not just theft or robbery. The use of force is not required to commit burglary, one of the bigger differences in robbery vs burglary. One could simply walk through an open door and a burglary charge would be just as valid as if they had forced their way into a structure.

For example, Lucy walks into Brian’s garage with the intent to steal his bike, but finds the bike is gone, so she returns home. Even though Lucy did not steal anything, she still committed burglary by entering an area with the intent to commit a crime. 


The majority of states and the Model Penal Code breaks the definition of burglary into three parts:

Unauthorized breaking and/or entry

  • Breaking in can occur through actual and constructive means. Actual means being the use of physical force such as picking a lock or even just slightly pushing open a door. Constructive means methods of entry that don’t involve force such as blackmail or fraud.

Into a building, occupied structure, or vehicle

  • States require a structure to be capable of housing people, animals, or property. The structure must also be closed to the public at the time of the burglary. If someone walks into an open store to steal something it is not burglary, if they wait until the store is closed, break-in, then steal an item, it is burglary.

With intent to commit a crime once inside.

  • The perpetrator must have mental intent to commit a crime inside the structure, usually, this crime is theft. The crime has to exist from the break-in itself. Breaking into a museum after hours to look at art does not constitute burglary, breaking into the museum to steal the art does constitute burglary.

All three of these criteria must be met to convict a defendant of burglary so it is vital to understand all three aspects.


What is robbery?

Robbery is defined as the action of taking something of value from a person by use of force, violence, or threat of force or violence. Most people imagine a robber as a professional criminal pointing a weapon at a bank teller. In reality, someone walking home from work pushes another person and steals their cell phone is just as much of a robber as someone robbing a bank.

For example, if Doug walks up behind Jamie and demands her wallet while claiming to have a gun that he will use unless she hands over her wallet, this is robbery. If Doug actually uses the gun or injures Jamie in any way, this would be elevated to armed or aggravated robbery.


The definition of robbery can be broken into two parts:

Taking something from the victim’s person or presence

  • This means that the victim is there when the robbery occurs. Whether it be physically taking something from the hands of the victim or the victim being nearby when an item is stolen from their property. If a person were to steal a bike out of the garage of the victim when the victim isn’t home this would be theft and burglary, but not robbery.

Uses, or threatens to use force or violence

  • This is where the distinction between robbery and theft is made. Robbery must have the use of force or the threat of force to be considered robbery. Just stealing something out of a garage when no one is around constitutes theft. Force or violence can be considered as anything use of physical force against a victim, snatching property away, threatening the victim, placing the victim in fear of serious or immediate harm.


Is robbery a felony?

One of the main questions someone has about robbery tends to be: Is robbery a felony? All types of robberies are considered serious crimes, and robbery charges almost always result in a felony, regardless of the value of the items that are taken. The majority of states punish robbery harshly, especially if it is armed or aggravated robbery which can result in ten to twenty years in prison. This is one of the biggest differences in burglary vs robbery, while burglary can be considered a felony in many cases, the charges and penalties are not nearly as severe as robbery.



Regardless of what kind of theft, burglary, or robbery charges you may be facing, our criminal defense attorneys in Las Vegas are ready and waiting to help. Contact our expert criminal defense team today for a free consultation.