If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “what is the difference between robbery and burglary?”, you’re not alone. The names of these two property crimes are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, but in the eyes of the law, burglary and robbery are distinct criminal offences, each with its own set of circumstances and legal consequences. 

At Jaswal & Krueger, we believe in empowering individuals with knowledge about various criminal acts, helping them understand the legal distinctions and potential consequences. This article will clarify the differences between robbery and burglary and shed light on what sets these crimes apart.

Understanding Theft: A Common Ground

Before we delve into the nuances of robbery and burglary, let’s start with a common ground: theft. Theft, a criminal act, involves the intentional taking of someone else’s property without their permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. This is a broad category that encompasses various theft-related offenses, including robbery and burglary.

Theft Defined

Section 322(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code provides a comprehensive definition of theft, emphasizing that the intent to deprive the owner of their property is a crucial element of this offense. Essentially, theft occurs when someone fraudulently takes or converts property with the intent to:

  • Temporarily or absolutely deprive the owner of it.
  • Pledge or deposit it as security.
  • Part with it under conditions that prevent its return.
  • Deal with it in a manner that renders it unusable.

The severity of a theft charge depends on the value of the stolen goods. If the stolen items are valued at less than $5,000, the charge may be categorized as either an indictable offense or a less serious summary offense, depending on the Crown’s discretion. However, if the stolen items are valued at over $5,000, the case is a specific offence called theft over $5000, which carries more substantial penalties, including imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Robbery: The Crime of Violence

Robbery, unlike theft, involves the use of violence or threats of violence against a person or their property during the commission of the theft. Section 343 of Canada’s Criminal Code outlines the specific criteria that constitute robbery, including:

  • (a) Stealing with Violence or Threats: Robbery occurs when someone steals property and, in the process, uses violence or threats of violence against a person or their property with the intent to extort what has been stolen or to prevent or overcome any resistance to the theft.
  • (b) Stealing with Violence Against a Person: This category of robbery entails stealing from a person and, at the time of the theft, wounding, beating, striking, or using personal violence against that person.
  • (c) Assault with Intent to Steal: When someone assaults another person with the intent to steal from them, it constitutes robbery.
  • (d) Armed Robbery: If an individual steals from someone while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof, it falls under the category of armed robbery.

Robbery is a violent crime that carries severe legal consequences. The use of violence escalates the severity of the offence, potentially resulting in life imprisonment, especially when restricted or prohibited firearms are involved.

Burglary: The Crime of Unlawful Entry

man holding set files and folders

In contrast to robbery, burglary primarily revolves around unlawful entry and property crime rather than violence. Burglary occurs when individuals break into or enter someone else’s property with the intent to commit a criminal offence inside. The critical element here is the unauthorized entry.

Elements of Burglary

Section 348 of the Criminal Code defines the offence of break and enter, emphasizing the intent to commit another criminal offence once inside the premises. There are two types of break and enter offences:

1. Break and Enter into a Dwelling

This category involves breaking and entering into a dwelling with the intent to commit an indictable offence inside. For residential burglary, a dwelling can be a house, apartment, or even a garage. Breaking, in this context, doesn’t necessarily require attempted forcible entry by breaking down doors or windows; even entering through an open door or window can qualify.

2. Break and Enter into a Place Other Than a Dwelling

In this case, the break and enter offense occurs in a place other than a dwelling, such as a warehouse or convenience store. This is still a serious criminal offence but less serious than a residential break and enter.

The Key Differences

So, what sets robbery and burglary apart? It’s the presence of violence. While both crimes involve theft, robbery involves the use of violence or threats against a person or their property, making it a more serious and violent offense. Burglary, on the other hand, focuses on unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime inside, typically without the need for violence.

Legal Consequences

Robbery is always considered an indictable offence and may result in substantial fines and life imprisonment, particularly in cases involving firearms. In contrast, the consequences for those who commit burglary can vary in severity depending on the nature of the intended crime and whether it was committed in a dwelling or another structure.

Seeking Legal Representation

Both robbery and burglary offenses are treated seriously by the Canadian legal system and can result in severe penalties. If you find yourself facing charges related to these crimes, it’s crucial to seek legal representation immediately.

A skilled criminal defense lawyer, especially one with experience in handling robbery and burglary cases, can provide invaluable assistance. They will assess the specifics of your case, scrutinize the evidence, and construct a robust defense strategy. Their expertise can help identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, challenge evidence obtained unlawfully, and negotiate with prosecutors to seek reduced charges or penalties. If your case goes to court, they’ll advocate on your behalf, striving to secure the best possible outcome for your situation.

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