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Burglary vs. Larceny: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 19, 2023
Burglary involves illegal entry with intent to commit a crime; larceny is theft of personal property.

Key Differences

Burglary is a criminal offense that encompasses the act of entering a building or structure unlawfully, with the intent to commit a theft or felony inside. Larceny, on the other hand, strictly relates to the unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else's personal property with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it.
When discussing burglary, emphasis is placed on the aspect of breaking and entering, even if no actual force is used. Larceny, conversely, focuses solely on the act of taking property without the owner's consent, without the element of trespassing.
A person can be charged with burglary even if they don’t successfully steal anything, as long as the intent to commit a crime within the property is present. For larceny, the crime is only complete when personal property is unlawfully taken and moved.
The distinction between burglary and larceny is crucial in the realm of criminal law. While burglary necessitates an invasion of privacy or property boundaries, larceny zeroes in on the act of theft itself.
In a practical sense, if someone breaks into a house with the plan to steal a television, but gets frightened and leaves before taking anything, they could still be charged with burglary. If that same person, without breaking into any property, takes a bike left in a park, they've committed larceny.

Comparison Chart


Unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime.
Theft of personal property without trespassing.

Key Element

Trespassing or breaking and entering.
Taking and carrying away property.

Crime Completion

Can be complete with mere intent after entry.
Completed once property is unlawfully taken.

Primary Focus

Invasion of property boundaries or privacy.
Act of theft itself.


Breaking into a house to steal.
Taking a purse left unattended.

Burglary and Larceny Definitions


The act of intruding into a place without permission to commit an offense.
Security cameras captured the burglary in real-time, aiding the investigation.


Act of permanently depriving someone of their belongings without consent.
Surveillance footage caught the act of larceny when she took the phone.


The act of breaking into a premise intending to commit theft.
The police caught the suspect during the burglary of a local store.


Theft or stealing, especially of personal goods.
The store experienced multiple cases of larceny last month.


A crime involving trespassing and intent to steal or commit a felony.
After the burglary, the family decided to enhance their home's security system.


The crime of taking someone's property without the intent to return it.
His history of larceny made it difficult for him to gain employment.


Unlawful entry into any building with the purpose of committing a crime.
Homeowners were alarmed by the rise in burglary rates in their neighborhood.


Seizing another's property with the purpose of wrongful possession.
The teenager was apprehended shortly after committing the larceny.


Illegally entering a place, especially a residence, to commit theft.
Many residents have started neighborhood watches to deter potential burglary attempts.


The unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else's personal property.
He was charged with larceny after stealing a wallet from the locker room.


The act of entering another's premises without authorization in order to commit a crime, such as theft.


The unlawful taking and removing of another's personal property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner; theft.


The unlawful taking of personal property as an attempt to deprive the legal owner of it permanently.


A larcenous act attributable to an individual.
That young man already has four assaults, a DUI, and a larceny on his record.


The unlawful taking and carrying away of things personal with intent to deprive the right owner of the same; theft. Cf. Embezzlement.


The act of taking something from someone unlawfully;
The thieving is awful at Kennedy International


Is breaking a window necessary for an act to be considered burglary?

No, burglary can occur without physical breaking, as long as there's unlawful entry with criminal intent.

Can burglary occur in places other than homes?

Yes, burglary can occur in any structure or building, not just homes.

If someone takes an item from a store without paying, is that larceny?

Yes, that's a form of larceny known as shoplifting.

What's the fundamental difference between burglary and larceny?

Burglary involves illegal entry with intent to commit a crime, while larceny is the theft of personal property.

Does larceny have to be secretive?

No, larceny can occur openly, as long as it's without the owner's consent.

If someone takes an item but plans to return it later, is that still larceny?

Yes, if taken without permission, even with intent to return, it can be considered larceny.

Can someone be charged with both burglary and larceny for a single act?

Yes, if someone unlawfully enters a place (burglary) and then steals property (larceny).

Is trespassing the same as burglary?

No, trespassing is unlawful entry without the intent to commit a crime, while burglary requires criminal intent.

Does larceny require breaking into a place?

No, larceny focuses on the act of theft itself, not on the method of acquiring the item.

Are burglary and robbery the same?

No, robbery involves taking something of value directly from a person using force or threat. Burglary involves unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime.

What's more focused on the act of theft itself, burglary or larceny?

Larceny focuses solely on the act of theft itself.

If a person unlawfully enters a property but doesn't intend to steal anything, can it still be burglary?

Yes, as long as there's intent to commit some crime inside, it can be considered burglary.

Is pickpocketing an example of burglary?

No, pickpocketing is an example of larceny.

If someone enters a home with permission but then steals something, is that burglary?

No, that would be larceny, since the entry was lawful.

What's the main emphasis of burglary?

The main emphasis of burglary is on unlawful entry with criminal intent.

Can you be charged with burglary even if you don't take anything?

Yes, if there's evidence of intent to commit a crime after unlawful entry.

Is borrowing something without permission considered larceny?

Yes, if there's intent to deprive the owner of it permanently.

Can burglary happen in open areas?

Typically, no. Burglary involves entering structures or buildings with criminal intent.

Is finding and keeping lost property larceny?

It can be, especially if no effort is made to return the item to its rightful owner.

What's the primary focus of a burglary charge?

The focus is on the act of unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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