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Difference Between Burglary and Theft

Burglary and theft are criminal offenses used interchangeably. However, the two words connote different meanings: burglary refers to as illegal entry into a private or public building with the purpose of committing a crime, the committed crime is known as theft, and it is defined by the taking of another man’s goods without the consent of the owner. They also differ in mode of punishment.

What is Burglary?

Burglary is an unlawful act of entering another person’s building with the aim of committing a crime. It is defined by the Model Pane Code under section 22.1; a person is guilty of the offense of burglary, if he or she made an unauthorized entry into an occupied structure with the aim to commit a crime.

It was further discussed that Burglary becomes a felony of second degree, if the perpetrator inflicts injury on anyone or armed with deadly explosive weapons. It further established that if the act occurs in the attempt to commit the offense or take to flight after the commission of an offense, it can be regarded to as an attempted offense. Before burglary became generally punishable, it was a common law offense, Wayne, and Lafave, 2006.

Moreover, the common law makes the definition of burglary more specific by meticulously defining the terms associated with burglary. A person has committed the act of burglary if he or she forcefully or by threats open a door even though he or she has the right to enter a part of the house. It becomes a felony when they forcefully enter a room without prior permission.

Entering also means the physical entry of a person or the use of equipment to take something from the building. It is further established that if an actor tends to use an instrument to open the window but sees an open door it may be refer to as burglary, however, if the actor opens an opened-half window, then he or she has committed the act of burglary. Burglary becomes a felony if it is committed in the night, and the” night” means, between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.


What is Theft?

Theft can simply be defined as the unlawful ownership of another person’s possession or unauthorized taking of another person’s property without the knowledge of the owner. In some situations, theft is similar to larceny.

If the actor threatens or inflicts injury on the owner in the process of committing the act, it is termed a first degree felony, the second degree felony is similar to first degree but differs in seriousness, while a person is said to commit a third-degree felony when it uses the slightest force to unlawfully take what does not belong to them in contrast to a theft charge taking without force. The definition of the offense is however further defined by country or state as they deem fit.

For instance in England, a person is guilty of theft, if he takes another man’s possession with the aim to permanently deprive the owner of its property. And the property could be money, tangible property or personal property. However it is not considered as a case of theft if the actor takes it in honesty perhaps to return to the owner.


Differences Between Burglary and Theft

Definition of Burglary and Theft

A person can be guilty of the offense of burglary if he enters a structure with the aim to commit an offense. While a person also commits the offense of theft, if he permanently deprives another man’s of his rightful possession. Burglary makes more emphasis on the unauthorized entry into a building while theft is more concern about the property that was wrongfully taken. A person is still guilty of the offense of burglary if he enters another man house without committing the act of theft.

Gravity of Offense

A burglar is at least charge on two charge cases, firstly, charge with an unauthorized entry into another man’s house then, secondly, charge on whatever he or she has unlawfully taken. While a case of theft may only warrant the prosecution of the accused on the charge of theft, however, strong charges may apply, if the accused used force to commits the act, threaten or inflict injuries on his or her victim.

Punishment for Burglary and Theft

A crime of burglary may warrants at least six months depending on country though. But if the crime of burglary is committed alongside theft then that can warrant at least 1-year imprisonment, it can also warrants, close to fifteen years or even life imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offense.

Theft, on the other hand, may warrant just six months jail and non-refundable amount of $1000, in the reported case of stolen $500. However, more punishment is attracted, if stolen item worth more than $500, it can warrant a punishment of 1to 15 years depending on the gravity of the offense, state or country, it may even warrant more sentence, in a case where theft goes along with assault or murder.

Burglary  vs Theft : Comparison Chart


Summary of Burglary and Theft

Both are criminal offenses and can be termed felony offenses under certain conditions.

Both warrant punishment.

A person is said to commit the crime of burglary if he or she enters a building with the purpose to commit a crime. While is the unlawfully taken of another man’s property without his or her consent.

Burglary offense is charged with at least six months, while theft is charged based on the worth of stolen goods.

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References :

[0]Model penal code. “Complete Statutory Text”. 1985

[1]Wayne R and Lafave. “Criminal Law”. 5th ed. 2010, pp. 1079-1080.

[2]James W. H. M and Sandra L. M. “Criminal Law and Procedure, a Systems Approach”, 3rd ed. ISBN 978-1-4018-6564-1. Clifton Park, New York: Thomson Delmar Learning - West Legal Studies, 2006, p. 127.

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/burglary-crime-theft-criminal-fear-2022162/

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/camera-backpack-theft-steal-2292843/

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