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Differences in robbery, theft and burglary

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2022 | Property Crimes |

Many people in Colorado use the words burglary, robbery and theft synonymously. While they are all property offenses, different elements apply from a legal standpoint.


Burglary is the illegal entry into a structure or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime. The offender doesn’t have to take anything or use force to get inside, such as if they come in through unlocked windows. Even if they only have a foot or hand inside the residence or building, it counts as burglary.

Old common laws defined burglary as breaking into a dwelling at night, but modern laws on property crimes have expanded. New laws offer more protection over various types of property by treating daytime crimes similarly.


To be considered theft, the offender must have the intention to permanently deprive a person of their property. Even if the offender takes something without permission, it isn’t theft unless they don’t intend to give it back.

Larceny is a separate category of property crimes in some states, and other states include it with their general theft laws. It is usually defined as the taking of actual property while theft commonly involves intangible items like identity.


While robbery is similar to theft, it often involves using threat, fear or force to make a person give up property. For example, white-collar crimes such as Ponzi schemes and embezzlement commonly don’t involve force and threats.

In some states, the amount of force used doesn’t have to be great if it makes a person turn over belongings. The victim also doesn’t need to be injured, even when force is used, for it to count as robbery.

Each state has its own penalties for burglary, robbery and theft, such as jail time. However, the prosecution must prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to lead to a conviction.

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