Theft v. Robbery v. Burglary

Theft, robbery, and burglary, are distinct crimes under California law. Each is governed by its own provision of the California Penal Code and has its own set of possible penalties. What follows is an explanation of how each crime differs from the other two and how each crime is classified.

Theft v. Robbery v. BurglaryTheft differs from robbery in that the theft is a taking of property that does not involve person-to-person interaction. A person merely takes property that does not belong to him.

Robbery, in contrast to theft, is a taking of property that does involve person-to-person interaction with force, intimidation, and/or coercion.

Burglary, in contrast to both theft and robbery, is the entering of a building or residence with the intention to commit a theft or any felonious crime. Burglary does not require that property be stolen or that person-to-person interaction occur.

How Theft, Robbery, and Burglary are Classified

Theft, according PC 484, is a taking of property.

Smaller acts of theft - valued at $400 or less - are termed petty theft. Larger acts of theft - valued at greater than $400 - are termed grand theft.

Theft is what is known as a "wobbler," meaning that it can charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the criminal record of the defendant.

A petty theft can be charged as an infraction if the value of the goods stolen is $50 or less and the defendant has no prior convictions for theft. The most frequent charge for a petty theft is a misdemeanor, but it is possible to be charged with a felony if the accused has prior thefts on his record.

A grand theft can be charged as a either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the incident.


Robbery - according to PC 211 - is the taking of property through fear or by force and involves person-to-person interaction.

A robbery committed in an inhabited dwelling; against drivers and passengers of public transportation and taxis; and against people using ATM machines are considered first degree. All other instances of robbery are considered second degree.

All robberies are classified as felonies and all are strikes under California's Three Strikes law.


Burglary - according to PC 459 - involves entering a building with the intention of committing a felony or any theft.

Like thefts, burglaries are wobblers since they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances of the incident.

First degree burglary is charged when a person enters an inhabited house, apartment, or other structure. All first degree burglaries are charged as felonies.

Second degree burglary is charged in all other instances - such as in a store or office building - and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Free and Confidential ConsultationIf you've been charged with theft, robbery, or burglary, call me at (916) 442-1200 to discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation.