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Robbery vs. Burglary: What’s the Difference?

carjacking, burglary, theft crime

Difference Between Robbery and Burglary Explained

A popular misconception is that robbery and burglary are the same. That is not true, because while robbery and burglary are considered theft crimes, they have distinct differences that you should be aware of.

For starters, let’s examine Wisconsin’s robbery and burglary laws as well as some examples below.

Wisconsin’s Robbery Law

Section 943.32 of the Wisconsin Statutes states that a person commits robbery when they take property from the person or presence of the owner, with the intent to steal such property, by either of the following means:

  • Using force against the owner with the intent to overcome their physical resistance or physical power of resistance to the taking or carrying away of the property; or
  • Threatening the imminent use of force against the owner or another who is present, with the intent to compel the owner to allow the taking or carrying away of the property.

Robbery is a Class E felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum $50,000 fine. To give you a better understanding of robbery, take a look at some examples of robbery below:

  • Yanking a purse from someone’s hand
  • Assaulting a person in order to obtain their money
  • Pressing an object at a person’s back, giving the illusion that it’s a gun, while stealing money from their pockets
  • Threatening to kill someone if they don’t hand over their car keys

However, a robbery charge can increase from a Class E felony to a Class C felony if a person commits robbery by using or threatening to use a dangerous weapon, an explosive device or container, or any article that could make the victim reasonably believe that it is a dangerous weapon. A conviction for this Class C felony offense is up to 40 years in prison and/or a maximum $100,000 fine. Examples of Class C felony robbery in Wisconsin include:

  • Pointing a gun at someone while demanding their wallet
  • Pressing your finger against someone’s back to give the illusion that it’s a gun, while ordering them to give you their diamond neckless
  • Holding a knife against someone’s neck and ordering them to open their safe so you can steal their belongings
  • Threatening to shoot someone if they don’t hand you their car keys

Wisconsin’s Burglary Laws

Now that you have a better idea of Wisconsin’s robbery laws, you may notice a key difference between robbery and burglary. A person commits burglary when they intentionally enter any of the following places without the possessor’s/owner’s consent with the intent to steal or commit a felony:

  • Any building or dwelling
  • An enclosed railroad car
  • An enclosed portion of any ship or vessel
  • A locked enclosed cargo portion of a truck or trailer
  • A motor home or other motorized type of home or a trailer home, whether or not any person is living in any such home
  • A room within any of the places listed above

Burglary is a Class F felony punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison and/or up to $25,000 fines. However, if certain aggravating factors are present, you may be charged with Class E burglary in Wisconsin, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. Aggravating factors increase the severity or culpability of an offense, so with this in mind, Class E burglary occurs when a person commits burglary and:

  • The person is armed with a dangerous weapon or an explosive device or container
  • The person is unarmed, but arms themselves with a dangerous weapon or an explosive device or container while still in the burglarized enclosure
  • While the person is in the burglarized enclosure, they open or attempt to open, any depository by use of an explosive
  • While the person is in the burglarized enclosure, they commit a battery upon a person lawfully therein.
  • The burglarized enclosure is a dwelling, boat, or motor home and another person is lawfully present in the dwelling, boat, or motor home at the time of the violation

To better understand the difference between robbery and burglary, you can take a look at the examples of burglary below and compare them to the robbery examples. We explain the distinctions between the two crimes further below, but in the meantime, see the following examples of burglary:

  • A person enters a jewelry store to steal a ring
  • In the middle of the night, a person enters their ex’s home with a taser and rope, but the ex runs to safety just in time to avoid confrontation
  • A person goes to a pharmacy with the intent to steal drugs
  • A student goes into their teacher’s classroom after hours to steal a folder containing test answers

Is Robbery Considered a Violent Crime?

Yes, robbery is considered a violent crime, unlike burglary. Both robbery and burglary are theft offenses, but one of the reasons robbery is different from burglary is that it is a violent offense. Burglary alone does not involve force or the threat of force, although, aggravating factors involving force and dangerous weapons can enhance a burglary charge to a Class E felony. Another difference between robbery and burglary is that robbery is committed directly against a person, while burglary is a type of “breaking and entering” offense that targets a property rather than a person.

Facing Charges? You Know Who to Call.

A charge for robbery or burglary is serious, as you could go to jail, pay expensive fines, and suffer a criminal record. These theft offenses have their respective differences, but that does not mean one crime is less severe than the other. The bottom line is you need an experienced attorney who’s worked on both sides of the criminal justice system, like ours.

To get started on your defense, contact us online or at (414) 882-8382!