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What is the Difference Between Theft, Burglary, and Robbery

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Theft, burglary, and robbery are three terms that we often use interchangeably, but under Washington state law, they are three distinct types of crimes. In simple terms, theft involves taking someone’s property without his or her permission, while burglary and robbery often involve serious, violent actions, such as breaking and entering and using a deadly weapon.

Knowing the difference between these three types of crimes can help you understand and identify the penalties associated with each, as well as adequately defend yourself if a police officer arrests you on one of these charges.

What Is Theft?

Theft is a crime that involves one person taking another person’s property without his or her permission and with the intent to deprive the victim of his or her property. In Washington, theft can be either a gross misdemeanor or a felony, and different degrees receive different consequences.

  • Third-degree theft, also known as petty theft, is a gross misdemeanor crime. To count as petty theft, the value of the alleged stolen goods must be less than $750. Penalties for third-degree theft can include fines up to $5,000 and/or up-to 1 year in jail.
  • Second-degree theft is a Class C felony. Under this charge, the value of the stolen goods must be between $750 and $5,000 in value or be a card, access code, or another number that gives the alleged thief access to goods or funds. This crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
  • First-degree theft is a Class B felony and one of the highest theft charges you can receive. The value of the stolen goods must be $5,000 or higher or the alleged thief must have directly stolen the property from the victim directly. Penalties for first-degree theft can include up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $20,000.

What Is Burglary?

Theft and burglary can happen at the same time, but they are two separate crimes. Burglary focuses more on entering and remaining on properties unlawfully with the intent to commit a crime. This crime can include theft, as well as kidnapping, assault, arson, and more. Washington law recognizes several types of burglary charges.

  • Residential burglary is a Class B felony and involves entering and unlawfully remaining in a home or other dwelling with the intent to commit a crime. Penalties can include up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 maximum fine.
  • Second-degree burglary is a Class B felony and involves committing an act of burglary in a place other than a vehicle or a dwelling. Penalties for this crime can include a maximum $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
  • First-degree burglary is a Class A felony and involves committing an act of burglary with a deadly weapon or the burglary results in assault. Penalties can include up to life in prison and a $50,000 maximum fine.

What Is Robbery?

Robbery charges are very similar to theft charges, but these crimes involve taking personal property from someone’s person unlawfully or using violence, force, or the threat of violence to take the property. Washington recognizes two types of robbery charges.

  • First-degree robbery is a Class A felony and involves committing the crime against a financial institution or while using a deadly weapon, pretending to use a weapon, or inflicting injury. Penalties include up to a $50,000 fine and/or a maximum life sentence.
  • Second-degree robbery includes all instances of a robbery that do not amount to first-degree charges and is a Class B felony. Penalties include up to 10 years in prison and/or a maximum $20,000 fine.

If you are facing charges for robbery, burglary, or theft, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney in Tacoma as soon as possible. While you may want to use a court-appointed defender or represent yourself in the criminal trial, hiring your own attorney can provide you with several benefits that the other two options cannot.

Your attorney can provide you with resources to assist with building your defense, understand the intricacy of your charges and the court processes associated with each one, and help you identify the strategies and collect the evidence necessary to build a compelling argument in your favor. Contact a lawyer near you to discuss your legal options following an arrest.

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