is-there-a-difference-between-these-3-crimes

W

hen it comes to legal stuff, there is a lot that the general public doesn’t know, and it’s understandable. Anyone who has ever tried to read a law before has come face to face with the seemingly cryptic language known as legalese. That subject is not easy to understand and so it’s only natural that people don’t have a perfect understanding of the thousands of laws in existence here in California.

A common misconception is that theft, burglary, and robbery are all the same crime. However, they are not. The law views each one differently. Each crime has specific circumstances tied to it that helps distinguish it from the others.

What Is Theft in California?

Theft is defined under California Penal Code (PC) 484 as the wrongful taking of someone else’s property. This can be done in a number of ways, such as taking an item, or money, when no one is looking or lying to get someone to hand over an item or money.

This crime is broken up into two categories, petty and grand. Which category a person falls into depends on the monetary value of what was stolen. If the monetary value of the stolen goods is under $950, then the thief will be charged with petty theft. If the monetary value is over $950, then the person will face grand theft charges.

The consequences for theft are dependent on which version a person has been accused of. For petty theft, a person faces misdemeanor charges that come with:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.

If the person has been charged with grand theft, they can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, a person faces:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.

If grand theft is charged as a felony, a person faces:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail.
  • A max fine of $10,000.

What Is Burglary?

Burglary is defined by PC 459 as entering a structure or vehicle with the intent of committing a crime. As far as this law is concerned, a person is guilty as soon as they enter the building or vehicle, regardless if they actually stole anything after that. All this law is concerned with is entering a place with the intent of committing a crime.

As with theft, burglary is also broken down into two categories: first- and second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary occurs when a person burglarizes a residence. Second-degree burglary occurs when a person burglarizes a commercial building.

This law is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. How it is charged depends on the facts of the case. First-degree burglary is always charged as a felony and comes with:

  • 2, 4, or 6 years in state prison.
  • A max fine of $10,000.
  • Felony probation.

Second-degree burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a felony it carries the following consequences:

  • Up to 1 year in jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

When charged as a felony, the crime comes with:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail.
  • A max fine of $10,000.
  • Felony probation.

What Is Robbery?

In California, the crime of robbery is defined under PC 211 as taking something from someone’s immediate presence against their will through the use of force or fear. Basically, this means that a person took something from someone by force. An example of this crime would be using a gun to take a woman’s purse from them.

Again, as with the other 2 crimes, robbery can be broken down into two categories: first- and second-degree robbery. First-degree robbery occurs when one of the following is true about the case:

  • The victim was driving some sort of motor vehicle.
  • The crime took place in some sort of residence.
  • The victim had just visited an ATM.

Second-degree robbery occurs when a robbery doesn’t meet any of the above qualifications.

First-degree robbery is a felony that comes with:

  • 3, 4, or 6 years in state prison.
  • A max fine of $10,000.
  • Felony probation.

Second-degree robbery is also a felony, and it comes with:

  • 2, 3, or 5 years in state prison.
  • A max fine of $10,000.
  • Felony probation.

Are They Different?

When written out in plain English, it is easy to see the differences between these crimes. Theft is stealing something, robbery is forcibly stealing something from a person’s immediate possession, and burglary is entering a structure with the intent of committing a crime. Burglary doesn’t have anything to do with stealing at all.

The consequences that a person faces depends on which crime the person has been accused of. Theft has much lighter consequences than robbery does due to the nature of the two crimes. Robbery is inherently more violent and threatening. Meanwhile, burglary consequences can be a bit light, but that is likely due to the fact that a person will probably face other charges on top of the burglary charge.

The bottom line is, even though the general public views these terms as synonymous, they are actually distinctly different.