Theft, Burglary, Robbery: What is the difference?

Many people do not understand the differences between the criminal offenses of theft, burglary, and robbery, and instead use the terms almost interchangeably. In reality, these are three separate offenses under Illinois law, each with its own unique elements that a prosecutor must prove in order to convict you. Each offense also has its own potential penalties set out by law, though the maximum penalties for all three can be very serious and may include jail time. The following is a brief explanation of the three different offenses and the elements of each in Chicago.


Theft-related crimes require that you obtain control or possession of another person’s money or property without their permission. The theft can be a physical taking of something, like in shoplifting, or can be by deception or fraud, as in most white collar crimes. There is a wide array of theft-related offenses, including receiving stolen property, identity theft, pickpocketing, embezzlement, and many more. Theft crimes may be misdemeanors all the way up to Class X felony depending on the method of thievery used and the value of the stolen property.


Contrary to popular belief, burglary does not have to involve theft. A person can be charged with burglary if they enter or remain in any of the following without permission with the intent to commit theft or anyfelony:

  • Building
  • Motor vehicle
  • Watercraft
  • Housetrailer
  • Aircraft
  • Railroad car

Burglary may be charged as a Class 2 felony, or as a Class 1 felony if it occurs in a school, place or worship, or day care facility (outside of a private home).


Robbery occurs when you take something from another person by using physical force or the threat of force. Robbery is a Class 2 felony, though it can be charged up as a Class 1 felony depending on the location or the identity of the victim (i.e. elderly or physically disabled).

The offense of aggravated robbery occurs when a person drugs another person in order to take property, or when a robber states they have some type of weapon. In fact, a robber does not actually have to have a weapon on them to be charged with aggravated robbery. All they have to do is make the victim believe they have a weapon for this type of charge to apply. Aggravated robbery is a Class 1 felony. Armed robbery, on the other hand, occurs when a person carries or discharges a firearm or other type of dangerous weapon during the commission of a robbery. This is a Class X felony that usually carries significant prison time.

Depending on the circumstances of your theft, burglary, or robbery case, you may be facing significant time behind bars, costly fines and restitution, and more. You should never take any type of criminal charge lightly, and instead your first move should be to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Goldman & Associates as soon as possible. Defense attorney Steven Goldman will always work to get the best possible result in your case, so do not hesitate to call our office today.

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