Do you understand the legal distinctions between theft, robbery and burglary?
If you’re not quite sure, you are definitely not alone. These three crimes are often lumped together – both in media and in our popular consciousness – so that a lot of people don’t really know what makes something a robbery versus a simple theft, or whether someone can be charged with burglary if they didn’t actually steal anything.
Below, we’re going to clarify the differences as defined in Texas law by detailing the legal definitions and explaining the penalties. Then we’ll discuss what you can do if you are facing charges for any of these offenses.
Theft is defined as unlawfully taking property of any kind from its owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. If an owner does not give consent, or if an individual knowingly accepts stolen property, a charge of theft may apply.
Theft can take many forms. The forms of theft prohibited under Texas law include the following examples:
- Theft by threat
- Theft by false pretext
- Theft by check with no value
- Receiving or concealing stolen or embezzled property
Generally, theft offenses are punishable in relation to the value of the stolen property. Here are the general guidelines for theft penalties:
- Less than $100 value: Class C misdemeanor
- Less than $100 value with prior theft convictions: Class B misdemeanor
- Stolen property is a license or personal ID: Class B misdemeanor
- Value between $100 and $750: Class B misdemeanor
- Value between $750 and $2,500: Class A misdemeanor
- Value between $2,500 and $30,000: State jail felony
- Stolen property from graveyard: State jail felony
- Stolen property is a firearm: State jail felony
- Less than $2,500 value with prior theft convictions: State jail felony
- Stolen property is less than $20,000 of certain metals: State jail felony
- Value between $30,000 and $150,000: Third degree felony
- Stolen property is less than $150,000 of controlled substance: Third degree felony
- Value between $150,000 and $300,000: Second degree felony
- Stolen property from automated teller machine under $300,000: Second degree felony
- Value over $300,000: First degree felony
Penalties can be enhanced if the offender was a public servant, government worker, or Medicare provider, or if the property owner was an elderly individual or nonprofit organization.
Theft charges also apply for theft of services, trade secrets, theft by check, unauthorized vehicle use, using certain instruments for retail theft, theft of financial information, cargo theft, and petroleum product theft.
Robbery is an offense committed in the course of committing theft. Robbery is also committed with the intent to obtain or maintain control of any property taken in the theft.
The charge of robbery applies if an individual causes bodily injury to another person, or if the individual places another person in fear of bodily injury or death while trying to steal from them. The individual must act with knowledge, intent, or recklessness for the charge to apply.
Aggravated robbery occurs when an individual causes serious bodily injury to another person or uses or shows a deadly weapon during the robbery. It is also an enhancement to robbery charges if the alleged victim is older than age 65 or mentally, physically, or developmentally disabled.
Robbery is a second degree felony offense, and aggravated robbery is a first degree felony offense.
Burglary is an offense committed when an individual enters a habitation or building without the owner’s consent and with the intent of committing theft, assault, or a felony.
A charge of burglary applies whether an individual conceals himself or herself inside a building with intent or enters and attempts to commit or commit theft, assault, or a felony. The individual can enter with any part of his or her body or with any object connected to his or her body for charges to apply.
Burglary penalties are a state jail felony for an offense committed in a non-habitation building.
A third degree felony charge will apply if the burglary was committed in any commercial building that stores controlled substances or if the individual remained concealed inside the building in order to commit theft of a controlled substance.
They are a second degree felony if committed in a habitation.
A first degree felony charge will apply if the burglary was committed in a habitation and a felony other than felony theft was attempted or committed.
Special provisions apply to burglary in the following circumstances:
- Coin-operated or coin collection machines: Class A misdemeanor
- Vehicles: Class A misdemeanor, state jail felony, or third degree felony under various circumstances
- Criminal trespass: various penalties based on the specific area entered without consent, and whether a handgun was carried by the offender
What to Do If You Face Charges
The best thing you can do is to get in contact with our office as soon as charges are filed against you or you are arrested. When you do so, you can set up a free case review and initial consultation where we will go over the facts of your case with you and let you know what options are available to you.
The sooner you act, the better. Waiting provides the prosecution with more of a head start and may even prevent you from collecting or using some types of evidence.
Reach out to us and we will protect your rights and reputation while we build the strongest possible defense against your charges.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.