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What is the difference between burglary and robbery?

Burglary and robbery both often involve theft, but there are several differences between the two crimes. Burglary involves the unlawful entry into a structure whereas robbery does not. Robbery involves the use of force or fear upon another person to obtain property whereas burglary does not. Both crimes carry varying penalties upon conviction depending on the circumstances of the crime.

Burglary is defined as the breaking and entering of a dwelling house at nighttime with the intent to commit a felony therein. A burglar can unlawfully enter a dwelling by actual breaking and entering, which involves physical force, or by constructive breaking and entering, which involves verbal threats, blackmail or fraud. The burglar must also have the specific intention to commit a felony once inside. Most states will categorize the burglary as either first or second degree depending upon whether the intent to commit the crime formed before or after breaking and entering.

In Massachusetts, conviction for burglary may result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Armed burglary carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison. If someone was assaulted - meaning they were put in fear - during the burglary, there is a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.

Robbery is defined as theft of a victim's property through physical force or fear. Putting someone in fear is enough to constitute a robbery; physical harm does not need to be inflicted. The particular circumstances of the case will determine what type of robbery one will be charged with and, therefore what sentencing one may face upon conviction.

In Massachusetts, simple assault upon a victim with the intention of robbing them may result in a 10-year prison sentence. If threats or violence are used to gain access to a secured area or if the robbery was committed against someone at least 60 years old, one could face up to life in prison. Robbery of a bank is considered a federal crime and will be prosecuted accordingly. Those who commit armed robbery will face a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

Burglary and robbery are both typically charged as felonies. A future post will discuss the possible defenses to these crimes.

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