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The difference between burglary and theft

For someone facing criminal charges relating to theft or burglary, he or she or may wonder what the difference is between the two.

While these two charges are typically related to one another, there is a stark difference between a theft charge and a burglary charge.

Definition of theft

According to FindLaw, theft involves the following elements:

  • Purposely taking someone else’s belongings
  • Intending to keep the property and not return it

This legal definition protects most people from accidentally making off with someone else’s property. It is the component of intent that solidifies a theft or larceny charge, along with burglary.

For theft charges, penalties are usually determined by the monetary worth of the stolen goods.

Definition of burglary

Burglary involves entering someone else’s property. The Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature states that the legal definition of burglary includes this: entering some sort of private dwelling without permission, with the intent to commit a crime.

While most people tend to mix up theft and burglary, they are not the same thing. Technically, burglary includes any crime where someone enters another person’s property without permission and plans to commit a crime. This may or may not include the intent to steal anything.

An interesting exception, however, exists for abandoned buildings. While it is still unlawful to enter an abandoned building without permission from the owner and may result in criminal charges, it is unlikely that burglary would be one of them.

Burglary charges may exist independently of theft charges, but it is the element of intent that solidifies charges for either crime.


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