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What’s the Difference Between Theft and Burglary?

Theft and Burglary tend to be used interchangeably. However, when it comes to the law, they are actually two completely different crimes! Here’s how to tell the difference:


  • Permanently depriving an owner of their property without their consent.
  • Property is defined as money or goods.
  • The crime must actually be committed.
  • Sometimes referred to as larceny.


  • Entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime.
  • A structure is very widely defined. Is not limited to a home.
  • The crime does not have to be committed, or involve theft.
  • Often called breaking and entering.

For example, if someone were to take a bicycle off your driveway, that would be theft. If someone were to enter your garage through a door – locked or unlocked – with the intent to steal a bicycle, that would be burglary.

Note that robbery, another term that is often mixed in with theft and burglary, involves stealing from a person directly. If a person is either threatened with force, or if something is stolen while it is on their person, such as a purse snatching, that is robbery.

Criminal Defense Lawyer has a great resource if you’re looking for more detail.

One comment:

  1. Good read. “To commit a burglary you must ENTER a structure or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime within it. You can be CONVICTED WITHOUT ACTUALLY committing a crime within the building, and the crime you intend to commit does not have to be theft or robbery.”

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