What Are the Differences Between Theft, Robbery and Burglary?

Criminal offenses related to property and personal belongings can be confusing, with terms like theft, robbery, and burglary often used interchangeably. However, each term represents distinct legal concepts, and understanding their differences is crucial in protecting your legal rights. Here’s what to know about the differences between theft, robbery, and burglary in Virginia.

What is Theft?

Theft, also known as larceny in legal terms, refers to the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. In Virginia, theft charges can range from petit larceny for less valuable items to grand larceny for higher-value property. The severity of the offense is often determined by the value of the stolen items.

What is Robbery?

Robbery involves the use of force, intimidation, or threat to take property from another person. In Virginia, a key element of robbery is that the victim must be present and aware of the force or threat at the time of the offense. Robbery is considered a violent crime due to the direct confrontation with the victim.

What is Burglary?

Burglary is distinct from theft and robbery in that it involves unlawfully entering a building, structure, or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime inside, such as theft, assault, or vandalism. The element of breaking and entering distinguishes burglary from theft, which may not necessarily involve unlawful entry.

In Virginia, burglary is classified into degrees based on the circumstances of the offense. Breaking and entering into an occupied dwelling during the nighttime with the intent to commit a crime is considered first-degree burglary, while other forms of burglary may be classified as second-degree.


Penalties for theft, robbery, and burglary in Virginia vary based on factors such as the value of stolen items, the presence of weapons, or the degree of force used. Theft and burglary charges may be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances, while robbery is typically considered a felony due to its violent nature.

Legal Defenses

Legal defenses for each offense may vary. Common defenses may include lack of intent, mistaken identity, or insufficient evidence. An experienced Virginia attorney can assess the details of the case to determine the most effective defense strategy.

In Virginia, theft, robbery, and burglary are distinct criminal offenses, each with its own set of elements and legal implications. Being aware of these differences is essential for individuals facing charges or seeking legal guidance. Individuals should understand their rights and have the support needed to navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal charge can impact you for the rest of your life. That’s why it’s essential to defend yourself and your rights. An attorney can help you to figure out these rights. It’s important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we will help fight for your rights. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Criminal Law