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Dec 27, 2021

What Is the Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

Though robbery and burglary sound like the same thing, it turns out that they are quite different. If you’ve been charged with robbery or burglary, then it’s crucial that you learn about the differences between the two as well as the consequences of the charges you’re now facing. Then, you can decide if you want to hire an experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney to represent you on your case.

What’s the Definition of Robbery?

A robbery involves one person taking something of value from another person by using threats or force. Robbery also involves the intent to permanently deny the owner of the property use or enjoyment of it. For instance, if you held a gun up to someone and demanded their wallet, then you would be committing a robbery. Even if you didn’t have a weapon but you told someone you were going to hurt them if they didn’t give you their wallet, then you could be found guilty of robbery.

In order to convict you of robbery, the prosecutor will need to show that you took property that didn’t belong to you, another person was in possession of the property, you took the property from the person’s immediate presence, it was taken against that person’s will, you used fear or force to take the property, and you wanted to take the property permanently.

What’s the Definition of Burglary?

If someone is charged with burglary, it means the prosecution believes they illegally entered a residential, commercial, or other type of structure with the intent to commit petit or grand larceny or another type of felony. Larceny means the unlawful taking or theft of personal property from either another person or a business. You could get charged with burglary even if you didn’t force your way into a property or use threat or violence to get in. The only qualifier is that you intended to commit a felony while inside of the property. For instance, maybe you entered a business after hours with the intent to steal thousands of dollars from its cash register.

To convict you of burglary, the prosecutor has to demonstrate that you entered the structure with the intent to steal something or commit another felony. It isn’t enough to show that you actually committed one of these crimes. They will need evidence to prove that you had planned to steal something and it wasn’t something you thought of once you were already on the property. If you decided to steal an item you saw once you were inside, then you could just be charged with theft.

Evidence that could be used to prove you intended to burglarize a building would be if you discussed your plan with other people or if you had burglary tools like pliers and crowbars on you.

Consequences for Robbery in California

In California, robbery can be charged in the first or second degree. Both are felonies. Each one is based on when and where the robbery occurred.

You could be charged with first-degree robbery if you robbed someone who recently went to a nearby ATM, was inside a store, apartment, house, business, boat, or trailer coach, or was a passenger in a fare-based vehicle like a rideshare, a limousine, or a pedicab. Second degree robbery would apply to all other situations.

If you’re convicted of first degree robbery, you could spend three, four, or six years in a California state prison, pay a fine of $10,000, and go on formal probation. If the robbery happened at a concert and involved two or more people, then you could receive a sentence of three, six, or nine years behind bars. When it comes to second degree robbery, you could be sent to state prison for two, three, or five years. If you use a firearm to commit a robbery, then you could get a 10-year enhancement added onto your sentence.

Consequences for Burglary in California

Just like with robbery, burglary can be charged in the first or second degree in California. However, while first degree burglary is a felony, second degree burglary is a wobbler, which means it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the crime.

First degree burglary typically involves residential burglary, since you entered a place that was “inhabited.” Even if nobody is living at the residence, it could be considered inhabited if that’s what the structure is meant for. If you’ve convicted of first degree burglary, you could be sentenced to two, four, or six years in state prison. You could also have to go on parole after you get out of prison. First degree burglary is one of the three strikes in California’s Three Strikes Law. This means that if you’re convicted of two felony strikes and then convicted of another felony charge, you could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Second degree burglary involves commercial burglary as well as burglarizing structures other than inhabited buildings. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you could be sent to county jail for up to one year. If you’re convicted of a felony, you could spend 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison.

Defenses for Robbery

There are different defenses that could apply if you’ve been charged with robbery. For instance, perhaps you believed you had the right to use someone else’s property, and it was a simple misunderstanding when they thought you took it from them.

In another case, you may have taken someone else’s property, and the person you took it from thought you were going to return it. However, there was miscommunication and you never gave the property back.

The police may have thought you committed robbery, but it turns out it was someone else who did it and you happened to fit the description. If you have an alibi, including evidence that you were nowhere near the scene of the crime when it happened, then this is a strong defense.

In another scenario, perhaps you took something from someone and didn’t use force or fear to get it. This could be a defense to your robbery charge as well.

Defenses for Burglary

Just like with robbery, you could be charged with burglary if the police thought you were someone else who committed the crime. You could use evidence to prove that you weren’t at the scene of the crime when it occurred.

Additionally, you could show that there was no intent to commit a crime when you entered a residential or commercial structure.

You may also tell the prosecutor that the items you took belonged to you, or you thought they were yours. You might have also had permission from the owner of the structure to enter it, which means that you didn’t break in. Another defense is entrapment, where someone convinced you to commit a crime that you otherwise never would have committed.

Crimes Related to Burglary and Robbery

Keep in mind that there are other crimes you could be convicted of along with burglary and robbery – or instead of burglary and robbery. They include petty theft (shoplifting), grand theft, grand theft auto, carjacking, fraud, embezzlement, and receiving stolen property. If you used violence when committing a burglary or robbery, then assault and/or battery could apply as well.

Your Options: Plea Bargain vs. Going to Trial

Most criminal cases do not end up going to trial; instead, they usually end in a plea bargain. With a plea bargain, you’ll plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge with a lighter sentence instead of risking going to trial and having to face severe consequences.

Prosecutors prefer plea bargains because the criminal justice system is already overloaded, and it helps to lessen the burden on the courts, the jails, and the prisons.

If you accept a plea bargain, you could not only avoid more serious penalties for your crime. You could also avoid going to trial, which is typically very expensive and could last for weeks or months at a time. You may also be able to avoid getting a strike on your record if you go with a plea bargain.

On the other hand, going to trial could be advantageous if the prosecutor’s evidence is weak and they aren’t willing to accept a plea bargain from you. An Oakland criminal defense attorney could determine that taking your case to court is the best move because you could get all your charges dropped or get a better deal than you would with a plea bargain.

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to find an Oakland criminal defense attorney with the expertise to guide you on the best option for your case.

Hiring a Private Attorney vs. Using the Public Defender

When you’ve been charged with robbery or burglary, you have a few choices: you can represent yourself, use the public defender, or hire a private Oakland criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

Representing yourself is never the best option because you likely don’t have the legal expertise to fight your charges. You cannot learn to represent yourself by researching the law online. Instead, you need an expert to help you.

You may believe that using the free public defender is your best choice. While it may seem that way, in reality, it could be very detrimental to your case – and to your future. The average public defender is handling dozens of cases at one time, and will not be able to give your case the attention it deserves. They may, for instance, urge you to take a plea bargain without even considering fighting your alleged crimes in court. Even though they are competent as lawyers, they are just too overloaded to give you the best advice possible for your case.

On the other hand, an experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney will give their all to your case. They will meet with you often to explain the charges and come up with a defense and legal strategy you’re comfortable pursuing. They will also utilize their relationships with local prosecutors and judges to try to get you a favorable outcome for your case. Many lawyers are available at all hours of the day, so if you’re panicking or need clarification at any point, they are there for you when you need them.

Finding an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney

To find an Oakland criminal defense attorney, look for one who has several years of experience dealing with robbery and burglary cases and has excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm could be the perfect fit for you.

In one case, when Elliot’s young client was charged with robbery after an alleged purse snatching where an older victim was pushed to the ground, Elliot fought hard. He ended up obtaining a sentence that removed his client’s fear of incarceration. The client only needed to participate in electronic monitoring for a year. Once he served this sentence, the felony conviction he faced could be reduced to a misdemeanor.

In another case, Elliot’s client was accused of theft for using someone else’s credit card. Once Elliot became involved, he reviewed the surveillance video of the alleged transaction and showed the prosecutor that it was clearly not his client on the recording. It was a case of mistaken identity. In the face of such strong evidence, the case was dismissed. Elliot’s client avoided serious harm.

If you’ve been charged with robbery or burglary and need representation, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at He looks forward to assisting you with your case.

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