For many people, burglary and robbery are just two different words for stealing something. And you will frequently hear the words used
interchangeably. But when it comes to the law, these terms have distinct definitions. They describe two different types of actions, and it’s important to understand the legal penalties and criminal implications of these crimes.
An easy way to remember the basic distinction between the words is to think that buildings are burglarized and people are robbed. Because robbery always involves violence or the threat of violence, the legal penalties are usually more harsh for robbery than burglary. Although, both crimes can result in serious jail time.
If you have been charged with burglary or robbery, you’ll want to speak with an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney right away to help protect your rights and freedom.
What Is Burglary?
Burglary is knowing and deliberately taking or damaging something that belongs to someone else. At the time of the burglary, the object must be located inside a building, residence, vehicle, locked container, or some other type of property.
Having the intent to steal or damage something is a key element of burglary. If someone inadvertently picks up your cell phone after entering your home, they aren’t guilty of burglary. On the other hand, if someone breaks into your car and intentionally takes your phone, that would definitely qualify as burglary.
When the police discover a person trespassing on somebody else’s property and the suspect can’t provide a believable reason for being there, the police may charge the trespasser with burglary, even if there isn’t any evidence that the property has been removed or damaged.
A person may be charged with burglary after forcing their way into a vehicle or structure or for remaining inside a home or business without permission after legally entering the premises.
The two key elements of burglary are:
- Illegal entry or remaining unlawfully
- The intent to commit theft or criminal mischief (damaging, defacing, or breaking someone else’s property)
Burglary becomes much more serious when other people are present. A burglary can escalate into a home invasion when a burglar comes upon the property’s residents. Penalties for burglary are determined by the potential for harm to the people who are present as well as the type of objects that are taken.
Burglary is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor if a person knowingly violates a written notice by a store owner or a court order restraining them from entering a particular retail location. It carries up to 120 days in jail and fines of up to $750.
Penalties for burglary in Colorado include:
- Third-degree burglary — Breaking into a locked box vault, safe, coin vending machine, or cash register carries up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Second-degree burglary —Breaking an entrance or unlawfully remaining in a building or occupied structure with intent to commit a crime against a person or property carries up to 12 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.
- First-degree burglary — Assaulting or menacing a person, being armed with a weapon or explosives, or possessing or threatening to use a weapon while on the property where the burglary takes place carries up to 24 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. Penalties increase to up to 48 years in prison for first-degree burglary of a controlled substance.
What Is Robbery?
Robbery involves the use of force or the threat of violence to take away personal property when the act occurs in the victim’s presence. The victim of a robbery doesn’t have to be the owner of the property that’s being robbed. It’s only considered robbery if the victim is subjected to force, threats, or intimidation.
In many cases, it may be difficult to determine if the alleged victim of a robbery was subject to threats or intimidation. For example, if someone carrying a large screwdriver walks into a store and takes a can of soda without paying for it, he may be a shoplifter, or perhaps he simply forgot to pay for his soda. But if the clerk feels threatened, police may charge the alleged perpetrator with burglary.
Unlike burglary and other types of theft, punishment for robbery does not depend on the value of the goods that were stolen. That’s because the key element in a robbery is an act of violence or the threat of violence.
Penalties for robbery in Colorado include:
- Simple robbery — Knowingly taking something of value in the presence of another using threats, force, or intimidation is a Class 4 felony that carries 4 to 12 years in prison and fines up to $500,000.
- Aggravated robbery — A robbery that involves the use or threats to use a deadly weapon carries up to 32 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.
- Aggravated robbery of a controlled substance — This is a Class 2 felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of 48 years and fines up to $1,000,000.
Legal Defenses for Burglary and Robbery in Colorado
The penalties for burglary and robbery can be severe. But even when the evidence against the suspect appears strong, there are legal defenses that can be effective. These cases are often winnable if you have the right attorney, someone who knows how to explain the circumstances in a way that justifies your behavior. A skilled lawyer can exclude potentially damaging evidence against you.
Effective legal defenses for burglary or robbery include:
- Someone gave you the object
- You were unarmed
- You were borrowing the object
- You didn’t take anything of value
- You had permission to be on the property
- You didn’t threaten anyone
- You didn’t intend to use a weapon
- Your rights were violated by the police
- Police committed an illegal search and seizure
- You didn’t know you were unlawfully on the property
- The alleged victim misunderstood your intentions
- You didn’t enter or remain on the property intending to commit a crime
Were You Charged with a Serious Crime?
The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. has been fighting for the rights and freedom of people in Colorado for over 25 years. Our Colorado Springs attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to build the strongest possible defense so that you can face your charges with confidence.
Founding attorney Timothy Bussey is one of the leading criminal defense attorneys in Colorado and prevailed in a landmark criminal defense case he argued in front of the State Supreme Court. He has received the Gold Client Champion Award from Martindale-Hubbell and was featured in Super Lawyers Magazine.
Call (719) 401-0585 to schedule a FREE consultation today.