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Burglary vs. Robbery in California


Although many people use burglary and robbery interchangeably because both crimes involve some form of theft, they are considered two separate offenses in California. Furthermore, theft is a separate crime from both burglary and robbery. 


Burglary in California is defined as entering any residential or commercial property with the intent to steal or commit another offense inside the structure. First-degree burglary involves a residence, while second-degree burglary involves any other type of structure, such as a business or store. 

First-degree burglary is a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to six years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. On the other hand, second-degree burglary is a wobbler, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. 

A felony charge for second-degree burglary carries a maximum jail term of three years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. A misdemeanor charge is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. 


Robbery means taking someone else’s property by force or fear. California divides the two felony offenses in two degrees. 

First-degree robbery includes robbing someone in an inhabited structure, any person who has just used an ATM and is still around the area of the ATM, or any driver or passenger of a taxi, bus, streetcar, subway, etc. All other forms of robbery are classified as second-degree robbery. 

First-degree robbery carries a maximum prison term of nine years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree robbery is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. 

The main difference between burglary and robbery is the latter involves the actual taking of a person’s property and the use of force, whereas the former only requires the intent to take someone else’s property or commit another crime. 

For example, if you walk into another individual’s home with the desire to steal something, you have committed burglary. On the other hand, if you enter someone's home and the owner is present while you take something or threaten him/her harm, then you have committed a robbery. 

When it comes to burglary, the prosecution will not focus on the person’s behavior or hostility at the time of the offense. The crime only requires that a person enter a structure with the intent to commit theft. 


Theft means unlawfully taking or stealing another person’s property. There are two main types of theft in California: petty theft and grand theft

Petty theft involves stealing property worth $950 or less. This theft offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. 

Grand theft involves stealing property valued at more than $950. This offense is a wobbler. A misdemeanor charge carries a maximum jail term of one year, while a felony charge can result in a maximum prison sentence of three years. 

If you have been accused of committing burglary or robbery in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. Let two former prosecutors defend you against serious criminal penalties!  

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