Burglary vs. Robbery: What’s the Difference?

Burglary vs. Robbery: What’s the Difference?

The crimes of burglary and robbery have some commonalities, but there are also major differences between the two. In North Carolina, the definition of the crimes are very specific. If you’ve been arrested for committing a burglary and robbery in North Carolina, you should be aware of the differences in the legal definitions of these crimes.

Additionally, be aware that the state aggressively pursues criminal charges against you. Sentences for both burglary and robbery range anywhere from 47 months to 204 months in prison. This makes it extremely important that you consult with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney immediately upon being arrested. Contact Coolidge Law Firm for assistance. We can help you defend yourself against any charges that may be filed against you.

Both burglary and robbery often include theft, but there are several differences between the two crimes. Burglary involves the unlawful entry into a structure whereas robbery does not. Robbery involves the threat of force whereas burglary does not.


Burglary occurs when a person unlawfully enters a place with the intention of stealing property and does not have the permission of the person who has physical, lawful possession of the property. This is the common law definition.

Two Degrees of Burglary

There are two degrees of burglary in North Carolina: first degree and second degree. First degree burglary is when you burglarize a home or building that is occupied. If no one is home or in the building when you burglarize, then it is classified as second degree burglary. Intent and the type of building are also key elements in the category of burglary.


For the crime to be classified as burglary, the defendant must enter with the intent to commit a felony or theft. You may be wondering how the prosecutor can prove what the defendant was thinking in terms of intent. Actually, the jury can infer that, because the defendant entered a building without permission, there was intent even if the theft never occurred.

Type of Building Burgled

If you break into a building other than a dwelling, you can be charged with the lesser offense of breaking and entering. However, the charge is upgraded to a felony if you break in with the intent of committing a crime. And, the charges are elevated when you break into a place of religious worship like a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.


Burglary in the first degree is a Class D felony and is punishable by 38 to 160 months in prison. Burglary in the second degree is a Class G felony and is punishable by 8 to 31 months in prison. Breaking and entering a place of worship is also a Class G felony. In North Carolina, a person who has been convicted of any felony burglary and is convicted a second time of felony burglary must be sentenced to at least 15 to 36 months in prison.


Robbery occurs when a person takes (or attempts to take) property unlawfully from a person through the use of threat or force. The common law definition is “the unlawful taking of property from the person of another through the use of threat or force.” It does not have to include breaking and entering as burglary does. In North Carolina, a person can be arrested for robbery when he/she forcibly steals property directly from another person by using threats, force, or intimidation. To be convicted of robbery, the prosecution must prove guilt of all three elements as defined in the common law.

“Unlawful Taking”

The first element in the classification of a robbery requires that you take someone else’s property without the owner’s permission.

“From the Person of Another”

The second element in the classification of a robbery requires that property must be taken from another person. This means that the property is taken either:

  1. directly from another person’s body or
  2. from another person’s immediate presence.

“Through the Use of Threat or Force”

The third element in the classification of robbery requires that the theft is accomplished using threat of force through violence, intimidation, or fear. Many times, this is a subjective determination that is left to a jury. If the victim feared for his or her safety or the safety of their loved ones, then the threat of force can be determined. However, a weapon is not necessary in inducing fear, or imposing force or violence. Use of a weapon causes criminal charges to be intensified.


In North Carolina, robbery is always charged as a felony. The specific charge depends on these three aspects of the crime:

  • Was a weapon used during the crime?
  • Does the defendant have a prior history of criminal conduct?
  • Has the victim sustained injuries as a result of the crime?

If the robbery is classified as common law, it is a Class G felony and is punishable by a maximum of 47 months in prison. But, if the robbery involved a firearm or other dangerous weapon, then it is categorized as a Class D felony, which is punishable up to a maximum of 204 months in prison.

Contact Us if You or a Loved One is Charged with Burglary or Robbery

If you have been arrested for burglary or robbery, call Coolidge Law Firm immediately. You need to obtain legal guidance and secure defense with attorneys who are experienced in these types of crimes. We are prepared to work for the best possible outcome in your case. We represent areas in Wake County including Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Cary, Wake Forest, Garner, Durham. Call us today at (919) 239-8448 or complete the contact form below.

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