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Robbery vs. Burglary: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 26, 2023
Robbery involves taking something of value directly from a person with force or threat, while burglary involves unlawfully entering a building to commit theft or a felony.

Key Differences

Robbery is a crime that directly involves a victim. It is the act of forcefully or through threat taking something of value from another person. In robbery, the perpetrator interacts directly with the victim, and the use of violence or intimidation is often present. On the other hand, burglary pertains to the illegal entry into a building or structure with the intent of committing theft or another felony. This crime does not necessarily involve direct interaction with a victim.
While both robbery and burglary are crimes against property, the nature of the crime differs significantly. Robbery focuses on the act against the person from whom the property is taken. The psychological and physical harm to the victim can be just as significant, if not more, than the actual theft. Conversely, burglary targets the property itself and involves trespassing, but might not result in any direct harm to a person.
Robbery often takes place in various settings, such as on the street, in a park, or even in a public space like a store. The location is not as specific as it is for burglary. Burglary, in contrast, requires the unlawful entry into a building. This could be a house, a commercial establishment, or any other structure.
In terms of legal consequences, both robbery and burglary can lead to severe penalties, but the specifics vary based on the jurisdiction and the details of the crime. A robbery might carry a heavier sentence if it involves a weapon or results in significant harm to the victim. Meanwhile, a burglary can be treated more severely if it occurs at night or if the burglar is armed.
While robbery and burglary are both theft-related crimes, it's essential to understand that not all burglaries result in theft. A person can be guilty of burglary if they unlawfully enter with the intent to commit a felony, even if that felony isn't theft. Robbery, however, always involves the taking of property with force or threat.

Comparison Chart


Taking something of value directly from a person using force or threat.
Unlawful entry into a building with intent to commit theft or felony.

Interaction with victim

Indirect or None

Focus of the crime

Act against the person
Act against the property

Typical Location

Various settings
Buildings or structures


Always involves theft
Might not result in theft

Robbery and Burglary Definitions


The act of stealing from someone directly using force or intimidation.
The man was charged with robbery after mugging a pedestrian at knifepoint.


Breaking into a building, typically to steal.
The family discovered the burglary when they noticed their electronics were missing.


A theft in which the victim is present and threatened with violence.
The store's surveillance camera captured the robbery in broad daylight.


A crime involving trespassing into structures with ill intent.
The alarms went off when an attempt at burglary was made at the jewelry store.


Acquiring someone's belongings forcefully while they are present.
The victims of the robbery were thankfully unharmed, but traumatized.


The act of entering a building unlawfully to commit theft or a felony.
The homeowner was shocked to find evidence of a burglary upon returning from vacation.


Unlawfully taking possessions from an individual with threats or violence.
The sudden robbery left the woman shaken and without her purse.


Illegally entering a premise intending to commit an offense.
The police are investigating a series of burglaries in the neighborhood.


A crime involving direct confrontation and theft from a person.
Late-night strolls can be risky due to the increased chances of robbery.


Accessing someone's property without permission to commit a crime inside.
With the rise of smart home technology, preventing burglaries has become more manageable.


The act or an instance of unlawfully taking the property of another by the use of violence or intimidation.


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


Do all robberies involve weapons?

No, robberies can occur without weapons, but the presence of a weapon can elevate the severity.

What is the primary difference between robbery and burglary?

Robbery involves taking from a person with force or threat, while burglary involves unlawfully entering a building to commit a crime.

Can burglary occur in a vacant building?

Yes, it's the unlawful entry and intent to commit a crime that defines burglary, not the presence of occupants.

Is the victim always present during a robbery?

Yes, robbery involves a direct interaction with the victim.

How are robbery victims typically affected?

Robbery victims might experience both material loss and psychological trauma due to the direct confrontation.

Can a person commit burglary in a public building?

Yes, if they enter unlawfully with intent to commit a crime, even if the building is typically open to the public.

Is trespassing the same as burglary?

No, trespassing is unlawful entry without the specific intent to commit a felony. Burglary requires that intent.

Does robbery always result in arrest or conviction?

No, not all robberies lead to arrests, and not all arrests lead to convictions.

Is pickpocketing considered robbery?

Typically, pickpocketing is considered a form of larceny because it lacks the direct confrontation and threat or force associated with robbery.

Can someone be charged with both robbery and burglary?

Yes, if a person unlawfully enters a building and then uses force or threat to steal from someone inside, they can be charged with both.

Can burglary charges be applied if nothing was stolen?

Yes, burglary is about the intent to commit a crime after unlawful entry, not necessarily the act of theft.

How is robbery different from simple theft?

Robbery involves direct interaction with a victim and the use of force or threat. Simple theft doesn't have these elements.

If someone is invited into a home and then uses force to steal, is it robbery?

Yes, because it involves taking something from a person with force or threat.

Is breaking a window to steal a purse from a car burglary?

This is typically considered "breaking and entering" or "larceny from a motor vehicle" rather than burglary.

Can a structure other than a house be the target of burglary?

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

Is burglary only about theft?

No, burglary is about unlawful entry with intent to commit any felony, not just theft.

If someone enters a building with permission but then steals, is it burglary?

No, burglary requires unlawful entry. The theft, in this case, would be another type of crime, but not burglary.

Are home invasions always considered robberies?

Not always. If theft with force or threat occurs during the invasion, then yes. If not, it might be another type of crime, including burglary.

Are all burglaries done at night?

No, burglaries can occur at any time, though some laws might classify nighttime burglaries as more severe.

Is robbery a violent crime?

Yes, since it involves force, threat, or intimidation against a person.
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
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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