Theft, Burglary and Robbery Are Not the Same Crime

The terms robbery, theft and burglary are sometimes used interchangeably in popular discourse, but they are distinct crimes under Florida state law, even though the lines between them aren’t always clear.

For example, taking merchandise from a publicly accessible space in a store is shoplifting, a form of theft. But taking merchandise from a portion of the store that is closed off to the public could be considered a burglary. And if the person uses any degree of force, such as resisting attempts to stop him, the crime could be charged as a robbery.

Theft is considered a petty crime, a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the goods stolen. An item worth less than $100 could result in a $500 fine and a maximum of 60 days in jail, while, on the other end of the spectrum, property valued at $100,000 or more could garner a sentence of up to $10,000 in fines and 30 years in prison.

Burglary, on the other hand, does not require a taking of property. It is simply the act of entering a property without permission with the intent of committing a crime. The gravity of the crime depends to some extent on the property broken into. In Florida, burglary of a home or other dwelling carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Breaking into an automobile, by contrast, carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. If there are aggravating factors — such as possessing a firearm or harming or threatening harm to someone — the sentence might be increased to life in prison.

Robbery is the act of stealing using force, violence or the threat of violence — for example, holding up a shop clerk at gunpoint in broad daylight and making her hand over all the money in the cash drawer. But if the same person breaks into a store after hours and threatens someone inside, that could carry a charge of burglary and robbery. Armed robbery carries a sentence of up to 30 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Theft, burglary and robbery — together or in combination — can carry hefty penalties and fines and require a skilled lawyer to provide an effective defense.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successful defended clients in a range of criminal cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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