If you face theft charges in California, your specific charge may be for robbery or burglary as opposed to theft per se. As FindLaw explains, these three white collar crimes are similar to, but different from, each other, especially when it comes to what the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you.

Theft, robbery and burglary all are property crimes. To convict you of theft, which also goes by the name of larceny, the prosecutor must prove that you stole someone’s personal property with the intent both to do so and to permanently deprive your alleged victim of the property.


To convict you of robbery, the prosecutor again must prove that you intended to steal someone’s personal property and permanently deprive him or her of it. In addition, however, the prosecutor must prove that you used a weapon during your alleged robbery and threatened your alleged victim sufficiently for him or her to fear bodily harm if (s)he did not accede to your demands.


Burglary is completely different. Here the prosecutor need not prove that you actually stole anything, only that you unlawfully entered a building with the intent to commit a crime – any crime – once inside. Unlike breaking and entering, which is a fourth property crime, you can receive a burglary conviction if you entered the building via an unlocked door or window rather than by physically breaking into it.

While this information is not legal advice, it can help you understand the differences between theft, robbery and burglary and what the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you of any of these crimes.

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