What Are the Differences Between Theft, Robbery, & Burglary?

Even though the terms theft, robbery, and burglary are often used interchangeably, they are actually defined as three distinct crimes. All three crimes do have a few things in common, including the fact that all have to deal with stealing another’s rightful property. However, there are several ways in which each of these crimes differs, not only by definition, but also by their potential penalties.

If you or someone you love is facing theft, robbery, or burglary charges, make sure you understand the differences in how each crime is defined and the ways in which they are punishable under Tennessee law.


Theft, also called larceny, is the most basic type of crime involving stealing. Someone commits theft when he or she takes property that does not belong to them without the owner’s consent, and with no intent to return the stolen property. The penalties for theft may vary depending on the value of the stolen goods and whether or not another crime was associated with the theft. For example, the repercussions for stealing will be more severe if the thief stole a real car rather than a toy car.

When the stolen property is valued at $500 or less, the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor, whereas theft of more than $500 is considered a felony in Tennessee.


An act or robbery, much like theft, involves taking another’s property without their consent. However, the act of thievery becomes a robbery when the thief uses force or the threat of force to take the property. So, in order for a robbery to qualify as such, the victim must have been present when the property was stolen. Because robbery includes the threat or use of force, these crimes are always considered felonies, regardless of the value of the stolen property.


Burglary is a bit different from both theft and robbery because nothing needs to be stolen for a crime to occur. A person commits a burglary when he or she breaks into another’s property without their permission, with the intention to commit a crime or act of theft. A burglary may occur at any place of business or residence, and even if nothing is stolen, the act can still be considered criminal. The burglar need not enter the property by force, and can still be convicted of a crime even by entering the premises through an open gate or unlocked door.

The penalties for burglary crimes vary, but all burglary crimes are considered felonies in the state of Tennessee. As such, a felony for burglary could result in jail time, fines, or even imprisonment. The penalties will be more severe if the burglary was considered “aggravated,” which may happen if the alleged burglar remains on the property without the owner’s permission.  

If you or someone you love is facing charges of theft, robbery, or burglary, you need to act fast. These crimes can lead to serious consequences, leaving you with a criminal record, or possibly leading to imprisonment and costly fines. Instead of leaving your case up to chance, make sure you contact a criminal defense attorney you can trust.

To begin building your case today, contact Patton | Pittman Attorneys and ask for a free consultation.

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