The law defines theft as intentionally removing or otherwise taking possession or control of someone else’s property, without their consideration or consent. It is important to note that the legal definition of theft may vary from state to state. The different forms of theft typically depend on the type of property, as well as the value of the property stolen.
There are two basic types of property as determined by criminal laws: moveable property, and immovable property. Some examples of property that may be taken unlawfully include:
- Real property, or immovable property, such as land and things attached to it;
- Tangible property, or moveable property, such as cars and computers;
- Documents representing something of monetary value, such as stock certificates and money;
- Information, such as a person’s identifying data or a company’s trade secrets; and
- Personal services, such as service at a restaurant (dine and dashing would be an example of theft of personal services).
In order for a crime to be considered theft, the unlawful taking of property is the essential element. Some of the different types of theft include:
- Theft of lost or mislaid property;
- Theft through false pretenses; and
- Burglary and robbery.
Burglary is a type of theft occurring when someone breaks and enters into a building, with the intent to commit a felony crime after the unauthorized entry. This includes homes, as well as any structure belonging to another. Although burglary is generally committed with the intention to commit a theft crime after illegally entering the premises, any unlawful entry onto property with the intention of committing any crime constitutes burglary. Assault, rape, arson, murder, or larceny are examples of such crimes.
For a crime to be considered burglary, the act of breaking and entering into a structure must be unauthorized. Thus, the offender must not have any permission to enter the building. There have been some cases where judges have determined that “structure” or “property” need not refer to an actual building. Tents, cars, rooms, or even coin machines (according to Texas law) could be considered for purposes of illegal entry.
Robbery is defined as larceny committed with violence, intimidation, or threat of force. Larceny is defined as the unlawful taking and carrying away of property belonging to another person, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their property. An example of robbery would be holding a person at knifepoint and demanding that the person give them their property, then taking that property away.
The main difference between burglary and robbery is that burglary requires breaking and entering into someone’s property, whereas robbery does not require breaking and entering into a building. Another difference between the two theft crimes is that in order for it to be considered a robbery, a weapon or a threat of a weapon must be used. Burglary does not require the use of or threat of a weapon.
In short, yes. If the defendant is found guilty of burglary, depending on the severity of the burglary, they could face:
- Imprisonment ranging from one to twenty five years;
- Court ordered counseling; and/or
- Court ordered rehabilitation program.
As previously mentioned, the severity of the crime will influence the penalties. Some of the following factors may be considered by the judge when determining burglary penalties:
- Previous criminal record, most specifically prior burglary convictions;
- Probation status;
- The type of structure involved in the burglary;
- Whether any other people were present in the structure at the time of the burglary;
- The type of crime that the defendant intended to commit during the burglary; and
- Whether any weapons were involved, or whether the defendant used force during the crime.
Robbery convictions may come in several different degrees, depending on the severity of the crime. Additionally, robbery is defined as “an inherently dangerous felony in which death can be foreseeable.” Thus, robbery may also be a first degree felony murder if someone is killed during the commission of the crime. This extends to circumstances in which the defendant did not intend to kill the victim. The penalties for robbery can include:
- Imprisonment, ranging from one year to a life sentence;
- Probation; and
- Criminal fines.
When determining robbery penalties, the sentencing judge may consider:
- The use of a firearm or weapon;
- Previous criminal record, specifically prior robbery convictions;
- Probation status;
- Whether or not the robbery resulted in an injury or death to any victims;
- The type of property stolen as well as its value;
- The location of the crime; and
- The number of accomplices involved, such as getaway drivers or lookouts.
If you are facing a burglary or robbery criminal charge, you should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can educate you on your state’s specific laws regarding theft crimes, and can help determine if there are any defenses that may be utilized, such as lack of evidence, intoxication, duress, etc.
Additionally, the attorney will represent you in court as needed. Importantly, an attorney may be able to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced, depending on the specifics of your case.