02/06/16 Do you Know What ‘Burglary’, ‘Robbery’, ‘Theft’ & ‘Larceny’?

e-legal lesson

Burglary = (1) (in the classic sense) the act of breaking and entering another’s house at night with intent to commit a felony (e.g., murder); (2) (in the modern American sense) the act of breaking and entering a building with the intent to commit a felony (dropping the requirements that it be (a) a house and (b) at night); (3) (in the modern British sense) the offense either of entering a building, ship, or inhabited vehicle (e.g., a caravan) as a trespasser with the intention of committing one of four specified crimes in it (burglary with intent) or of entering it as a trespasser but subsequently committing one of two specified crimes in it (burglary without intent). The specified offenses in Great Britain are, for burglary with intent: (1) stealing; (2) inflicting grievous bodily harm; (3) causing criminal damage; and (4) rape. And for burglary without intent: (1) stealing or attempting to steal; and (2) inflicting or attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm.

Robbery = feloniously taking personal property by force or threat of force from the immediate presence of the victim.

Theft is a statutory wrong that is broader than robbery, although laymen often consider the words synonymous. Robbery means the taking of personal property belonging to another without his or her consent, and with the intent to deprive the owner of its value. Theft is also broader than larceny (= the felonious stealing of personal property, the fraudulent taking and carrying away of a thing without claim of right), for it includes the lawful acquisition and subsequent appropriation of the personalty. In England, the common-law felony of larceny was superseded by the Theft Act of 1968.

The exact definitions of these terms may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But it is universal that people are the object of robbery; places are the objects of burglary; and things are the objects of larceny and theft.

In American legal writing, when of follows burglary, some infelicity or other is almost certain to follow; burglary of an automobile would traditionally have been considered a legal blunder, though several states now have statutes that incorporate this phrase; burglary of a building is a redundancy, unless the reference is to a particular building, as burglary of the Stokes Building.