Thanks to the U.S. cinema industry, few terms in law get muddled quite as often as “burglary,” “robbery,” and “larceny.” You know this scene. A couple arrives home to find their home ransacked, and one of them helplessly exclaims, “We’ve been robbed!” But the truth of the matter is that a house can’t be robbed. It can, however, be burglarized. And if the burglars didn’t steal any property, it can still be a burglary, but it also might be a trespass. We consulted criminal defense Florida lawyer Parikh to clear up some of the confusion about these common criminal law terms. Read on to become more knowledgeable about theft crimes.
What is Burglary?
In Florida, in order to be charged with burglary, the state must show that the subject:
- Entered the property,
- without the permission of the owner or another custodian or invitee,
- with the intention of committing a crime inside.
Note that the crime does not have to be theft — although theft is one of the most common objectives of burglars. Other crimes could include vandalism, arson, assault, battery, rape, kidnapping, or homicide. If you are charged with burglary, it’s common to have an accompanying charge for the crime committed on or inside the property. Without the ability to prove the intent to commit a crime, the state will usually charge criminal trespass instead of robbery.
In Florida, you can be charged with the burglary of a residence, structure, conveyance, or container. This may differ in other states.
What is Robbery?
The elements of robbery are:
- The use of force or threatened use of force,
- with or without a weapon,
- to place the victim in fear,
- with the intent to deprive them of their property
Because fear is an element, it is considered a crime against a person, as opposed to burglary, which is a crime against property. You can be charged with robbery and theft, but the theft is usually a lesser-included charge, meaning that theft is implied in the term robbery.
What is Larceny?
In the United States, the terms “larceny” and “theft” are interchangeable. Theft intends to temporarily or permanently deprive another of the use of property owned by them. That means that you can still be charged with theft, even if you intended to return the property. There are many different types of theft, but usually, the most significant factor is the value of the property.
Most states have a threshold where the amount that was stolen changes the charge from petit theft (usually a misdemeanor) to grand theft (a felony). In some states, the theft of certain items may be charged as a felony, regardless of the dollar amount. For instance, the theft of a firearm in Florida is an automatic felony. Some states have separate charges for the theft of an automobile. Remember, though, in the case of a carjacking, the suspect can also be charged with robbery.
What to Do if You are Charged With a Crime
For most people, there’s no such thing as a minor crime. If you’ve been arrested, you will be facing jail, fines, and a permanent criminal record. You should not discuss your case with the police before you speak to a qualified criminal defense lawyer in your area.