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Theft, Robbery, Larceny, and Burglary: Words for the Same Thing?

Explaining Theft, Robbery, Larceny and Burglary in Texas

Theft, robbery, larceny and burglary are some fairly common criminal offenses that are relatively well-known. While it is true that all of these crimes are similar in some ways, they are not all interchangeable words for the same offense. Because these crimes involve illegally taking property, many people may believe that they all refer to the same specific action.

However, each of these four offenses refers to a unique criminal action with its own definitions and punishments. Knowing more about these crimes can help defendants consult a lawyer to prepare for a criminal defense.

What Is Theft?

According to Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, theft is defined as an action that involves unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. It is the legal term for the act of stealing.

Unlawful appropriation involves taking another person’s property without the owner’s consent or taking property that is known to be stolen.

There are many different degrees of theft. Simple theft could involve taking small items or a few dollars from another person while grand theft could involve stealing property worth thousands of dollars. Petty theft, also known as larceny, is the most common and least serious type of theft. In some jurisdictions, larceny is a separate offense from theft but, in many places, the two charges have been merged and are simply called theft.

In Texas, the penalties for theft are based on the value of the stolen property. For example theft of property valued at less than $50 could lead to:

Stealing more valuable property could lead to thousands of dollars in fines and years in jail.

What Is Robbery?

Robbery is a criminal offense that is an enhancement over basic theft charges. Although both of these criminal actions can involve illegally taking the property of others, robbery has additional characteristics. Specifically, robbery charges can be filed if a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly harms another person or threatens to harm them in the process of committing theft.

For example, if a person threatens to hand over their wallet or face a beating, robbery charges could be filed. Even if the person committing theft only uses a threat without actual violence, robbery charges can still be applied.

Robbery charges can lead to:

  • Conviction on a second degree felony charge
  • Two or up to 20 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

What Is Burglary?

Burglary is one of the most serious theft-related offenses. According to Section 30.02 of the Texas Penal Code, burglary is defined as an action wherein a person enters a building without consent in order to commit a felony, a theft or an assault. Unlike the other crimes listed above, burglary charges do not require any property to actually be stolen.

For example, burglary charges can be applied if a person enters any part of their body or an object into a building or habitation with the intent to commit a crime. So, if a person opens a window and looks around with a flashlight to search for property to steal, they may be charged with burglary.

A burglary committed in a building is less serious than a burglary in a residence or habitation. A person who is charged with burglary of a habitation can face:

  • Conviction on a second degree felony charge
  • Incarceration in prison for two to 20 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Legal Defenses

Facing burglary, theft or robbery charges alone in court can be very challenging. Defendants who find themselves in this situation can hire a criminal defense attorney in an attempt to create a solid legal defense. With sufficient evidence, an attorney may be able to make a deal with the prosecution to enter a guilty plea to a less serious charge. If this is successful, the defendant could avoid jail time or receive a shorter jail sentence.


Have you been charged with any of the crimes mentioned in this post? If so, you need to defend yourself with a reliable criminal justice attorney. The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp can provide that defense. For strong representation, contact Mr. Sharp today at (713) 868-6100.

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