Though the terms burglary and robbery are used interchangeably in several circumstances, there is a significant difference between the two. While the term 'burglary' is used to refer to the unlawful entry into somebody's property with the intention of committing a felony or theft, 'robbery' is attempting to take something valuable from the other person, using force or threat. The fact that the laws pertaining to such crimes differ from one area of jurisdiction to other, makes it difficult for people to understand how they differ from each other.
According to the common law, robbery is defined as the act of acquiring other person's property, with the intention of permanently depriving him of it, either by means of force or by threatening. Burglary, on the other hand, is defined as breaking or entering somebody's property with the intention of committing a felony or theft. Breaking into someone's house automatically amounts to burglary, irrespective of whether the act was actually committed or not. While the word property refers to valuables in the case of robbery, the same in the case of burglary refers to buildings and automobiles.
Burglary Vs Robbery: How The Two Differ
A burglary need not be a forcible entry, as the law states that even entering the premises of an individual through an open door, with the intention of committing a crime, can qualify for the same. Similarly, inserting any instrument inside the house with the intent of committing a theft is also considered a burglary. These crimes need not necessarily amount to damage.
If an individual enters a particular house, either by breaking open the door or by walking in through an open door, with the intention of committing a felony or misdemeanor, it can amount to burglary. However, if the accused has entered the house by breaking open the door, then it amounts to forcible entry, and if he has just walked in through an open door, it amounts to a non-forcible entry; these things are taken into consideration when sentencing the accused.
The presence of the victim in person is the most important attribute of a robbery. The law also states that, the use of force or threat should be immediate. If a person points a knife at you, and asks you to part with your wallet, it can qualify for a robbery. On the other hand, if you are assaulted after the completion of theft, it need not necessarily qualify for one.
Robbery is further classified into various degrees depending on the area of jurisdiction and the type of weapon used. When the robber makes the victim believe that he has a weapon and robs him, it is referred to as aggravated robbery. The form of punishment in case of robbery depends on the severity of the crime and area of jurisdiction, with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.
Inability to differentiate between these two can make the case weak for the plaintiff. Many a time, we come across cases wherein a person claims that his house was robbed in his absence. This is technically incorrect as the presence of the victim is mandatory for the particular crime to qualify as a robbery.