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Burglary Vs. Theft: Take a Closer Look at the Different Crimes

Burglary Vs. Theft: Take a Closer Look at the Different Crimes

Knowing how to identify burglary vs theft can be challenging. Learn the similarities and differences of these two crimes.

A burglary takes place every 15 seconds in the US.

Most people tend to use the terms theft and burglary interchangeably. But in the eyes of the law, they are distinct crimes. But what’s the difference?

Today we’re examining the nitty-gritty of burglary vs theft, to clear up what sets them apart and why it matters.

Definition of the Two Terms

Theft is when someone takes property that doesn’t belong to them without permission or the right to do so. The aim is to keep it away from the owner forever.

Think about someone sneaking a smartphone from a table at a café or slipping a wallet out of a purse without being noticed. These actions are all about taking what isn’t theirs to keep.

The law calls this theft, and it’s a term that covers a wide range of actions, from the smallest act of taking candy from a store to the larger act of stealing a car.

Burglary involves more than just missing property. It’s about entering a place where you’re not supposed to be with the plan to commit a crime.

Legal Elements of Burglary and Theft

Theft is all about taking property without asking and planning not to give it back. This can be as simple as taking a bike that isn’t locked up or as serious as hacking into someone’s online account to steal money.

The value of what’s taken often affects how seriously the law takes the crime. For example, stealing something worth a lot of money can lead to harsher punishment than taking something of little value.

Elements of Burglary

Burglary is a bit more complex. It starts with someone illegally entering a place, like breaking into a house or sneaking into a closed store. But the key is what they plan to do once they’re inside.

If they intend to commit a crime, no matter what that crime is, it’s considered burglary.

This means even if they don’t end up stealing anything, just the fact that they broke in with bad intention makes it burglary. Some laws make a big deal out of whether the place was a home, if it was at night, or if the person breaking in had a weapon.

These factors can make the punishment more severe.

Both of these crimes involve taking something that isn’t yours, but burglary adds another layer with the illegal entry and intent to commit a crime.

Burglary vs Theft

While both burglary and theft involve taking something that doesn’t belong to you, the main difference lies in how and where these crimes happen. Theft is straightforward: it’s when someone decides to take something that isn’t theirs, with the intent of keeping it permanently.

There’s no need for the thief to break into a place. The act of taking is enough to call it theft. This can happen anywhere, from a crowded street to an unwatched front yard.

Burglary adds another layer to the crime. It starts with an illegal entry. This means the person committing the burglary breaks into a place without permission, like a home or a store after hours.

But the main point is their intention. If they enter with the plan to commit a crime, it’s burglary, even if they don’t end up taking anything.

The intended crime doesn’t have to be theft. It could be anything illegal. The fact that someone entered a place unlawfully with a bad intent is enough to classify the act as burglary.

This distinction is important because it shows us that burglary is about the combination of breaking in and intending to commit a crime, while theft is about the act of taking itself.

Legal Consequences and Charges

The laws around theft and burglary are designed to punish and hopefully prevent these crimes. Both can lead to serious consequences, but the specifics depend on the crime and the situation.

Consequences of Theft

Theft can range from a minor issue to a major one, depending on what was stolen and how it was done. For smaller items, the law might treat the theft as a misdemeanor.

This could mean a fine or a short time in jail. But if the stolen items are worth more, or if the theft was part of a bigger crime like armed robbery, it becomes a felony. 

The use of a weapon during a theft, known as armed robbery, makes the situation even more severe. This shows the law takes into account not just what was taken, but how the theft was carried out.

Consequences of Burglary

Burglary charges can also vary a lot. Simply breaking into a place without taking anything might be punished less harshly than breaking in and stealing.

But if someone breaks into a home at night or while someone is there, the charges are more severe. The law sees these acts as more dangerous and threatening.

If the person breaking in has a weapon, the charges go up. This is true even if they don’t use it.

This is often called aggravated burglary. It’s taken very seriously and can lead to a long time in prison.

Preventive Measures

Preventing burglary and theft starts with being aware and taking steps to protect your property. Simple actions can make a big difference.

For example, keeping doors and windows locked can stop someone from easily entering your home. Lighting up your yard or the area around your business makes it harder for thieves to sneak around unnoticed. Installing a security system acts as both a deterrent and a way to alert you if someone tries to break in.

Being part of a community watch program can also help. When neighbors look out for each other, it increases the chances of spotting suspicious activities before they turn into crimes.

Legal Expertise in Distinguishing Between the Two

As you can see, when it comes to Burglary vs Theft, there are a lot of similarities and some key differences. Understanding the differences helps us grasp the legal landscape and protect ourselves better.

Since 2019, Heartland Law Office has provided legal services for family law, criminal defense, DUI, estate planning, business law, bankruptcy, guardianship, child custody, and tribal law in Bismarck, ND, and surrounding areas. Get in touch today to find out how we can help with your case.