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Difference Between Robbery, Theft, Burglary, and Larceny

Difference Between Robbery, Theft, Burglary, and Larceny

You might think of robbery, theft, and burglary as near-identical crimes. Those offenses may result in a similar outcome for the victim loss of property or assets – but the extra elements that elevate a simple theft charge to burglary or robbery can mean extra years (or decades) in prison for the perpetrator. So, what are the differences between theft, robbery, and burglary? We explain the main ones below. 


Theft is considered the most basic of these offenses. Pick-pocketing, purse snatching, and other examples of discreetly nabbing someone else’s property without using force all fall under the umbrella of theft. Maine, as with most other states, lumps in the common law crime of larceny with theft. So, the terms “theft” and “larceny” are effectively synonymous in the state.


The crime of robbery is theft that is accomplished by force or threat of force. Individuals who commit robbery often use a weapon, such as a gun, knife, box-cutter, or other dangerous weapon, for example. Robbery can also be accomplished without the presence of a weapon; a “strong-arm” robbery (which is a term used in other jurisdictions) is an instance of robbery without the use of a weapon. Merely having the weapon at the scene of the crime is enough for theft to be considered robbery; you do not have to fire a shot or strike the victim to be charged with robbery.  Furthermore, a simple assault or even just the threat of force is enough in Maine to justify a robbery charge.


As with robbery, a burglary charge is essentially a theft charge with added criminal elements. Burglary involves entering a structure without permission with the intent to commit a crime, such as theft of property, criminal mischief, etc. The crime of breaking and entering is synonymous with burglary under Maine law. It is important to note that theft, or even the intent to commit theft, does not have to be committed for you to be charged with burglary. For these reasons, burglary is distinct from theft and robbery. Another important factor is that breaking and entering does not have to occur for there to be a burglary charge to be applied.  Just the simple act of entering, without breaking, a dwelling without permission, and then committing a crime therein, is enough to trigger a burglary charge.

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The penalty for theft depends on the value of the stolen property. Theft of property valued at under $500 is considered a Class E Misdemeanor in Maine, while theft of property worth more than $10,000 is a Class B felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and prior theft convictions can increase penalties for your actions.  Burglary and robbery charges are serious felony charges that carry stiff prison sentences if you are convicted. 

The Maine Criminal Defense Group recognizes the gravity of theft, burglary, and robbery charges and will zealously fight for you in court. If you are facing serious jail time, please call us at (207) 571-8146 for efficient and aggressive legal counsel


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If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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