Theft Defense

Is There A Difference Between Theft, Robbery, And Burglary In Pennsylvania?

There is clearly a connection between the criminal charges of theft, robbery, and burglary in Pennsylvania, but there are also some distinct differences when a particular charge is applied. The details of the case with respect to the evidence typically dictates which charge is used. Theft is the general term, and it is commonly used in general situations when the property has been taken without authorization. Robbery and burglary are specific types of theft, and the criminal activity of the assailant is usually how the prosecutors arrive at the distinct charge. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney will understand the nuances in the differing charges, often crafting a case for maximum reasonable doubt based on the evidence being used by the state prosecutor.


Theft is the general term for the taking of another party’s property. Theft charges can be filed based on the value of the property, with the level of charges being lowered for lower property values. Penalties and the degree of the charge are assessed according to the value as well, but there can often be questions regarding whether the action was actually theft. There can commonly be disputes over ownership of some personal property, and the details of the case can result in a charge dismissal or deferment in low-value theft cases. When there are no extenuating circumstances that would result in robbery or burglary charges, theft is the typical charge. It is a property crime, and interaction with the victim is not a conviction requirement.


Robbery falls under the category of theft, but there must always be some element of force as material case evidence. The term “force” can range from physically restraining a victim while taking the property to coercive actions or threats. The value of the property is not necessarily a component of the charge, as the violent act used in association with the theft is the controlling factor. Because robbery is considered a violent crime, penalties are typically much harsher. There is also always a specific victim in a robbery case, and interaction is usually necessary for charge validity.


Burglary does not require interaction with the victim and must have a component of illegal entry into a structure of some type. There must be clear evidence the suspect purposely entered a dwelling or building with the direct intent to steal property. Property values do not have to be of a certain amount, and additional theft charges can even be applied, as the illegal entry alone constitutes a valid separate charge.

The problem for the defendant in any of these charges is that they can be interchangeable to some degree. However, when cases are processed, it is incumbent on the prosecutor to prove the distinction of the charge actually applies. The details matter just as in any other case, and reasonable doubt can be established when you have an aggressive Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer.