Although many people use the term robbery and burglary interchangeably, these two criminal offenses are separate charges in Pennsylvania, meaning the penalties for either charge varies. It is critical you understand the difference between these charges if you hope to avoid the devastating implications of a robbery or burglary conviction.

How Does Pennsylvania Define Burglary and Robbery?

Under Pennsylvania law, burglary and robbery are two different statutes. However, robbery involves taking someone else’s property using fear or intimidation, while burglary involves entering a building or home with or without the intent to commit theft.

Robbery Defined

Under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. Crimes and Offenses § 3701, robbery may be considered a more severe offense depending on the circumstances of your case.

If you are charged with second-degree robbery, you have been accused of threatening physical bodily injury or causing physical bodily injury while committing a theft. If convicted, you could be fined up to $25,000 and spend as much as ten years in state prison.

If you are charged with first-degree robbery, you have been accused of threatening physical bodily injury or causing physical bodily injury while committing theft while possessing a dangerous weapon. If convicted, you could face up to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $25,000.

If you hope to avoid a conviction, some of the potential defenses that could be used to challenge the robbery charges against you include:

  • Duress — did law enforcement threaten or bully you into confessing to robbery?
  • Intoxication — are you accountable for your actions while under the influence?
  • Entrapment — did law enforcement set up this situation to trap you?
  • Mistake of fact — were the facts put forward in your conviction wrong?
  • Lack of probable cause — did law enforcement have any reason to charge you?
  • Innocence — your attorney can argue you can’t be convicted because you didn’t commit the crime

Burglary Defined

Under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. Crimes and Offenses § 3502, you can be charged with burglary if you have been accused of entering someone else’s home or building with or without the intent to commit theft.

If no one was inside when the defendant entered the home, or the residence or building was not designed to accommodate overnight stays, you might be charged with a second-degree felony. This is punishable by a 10-year term in state prison and fines as high as $25,000. However, if you are convicted of first-degree burglary, you could spend up to 20 years in prison and pay $25,000 in fines.

To avoid being convicted of a burglary offense, you may attempt to work with the state prosecutor to obtain a plea agreement. However, preparing a compelling defense may be in your best interests if these options are not available. Some examples of defenses that could be used to challenge burglary charges include:

  • The defendant did not enter the building — if you didn’t enter the building or premises, you couldn’t commit burglary
  • The defendant had no intent to commit a crime — your lawyer may argue you mistakenly entered the building
  • The defendant had permission to enter the building — your lawyer could say you had been allowed inside the building
  • Constitutional rights violations — your lawyer could argue law enforcement erred while arresting you
  • Innocence — your lawyer could say you aren’t guilty because you didn’t commit the crime
  • Entrapment — your lawyer may argue that law enforcement set you up for the crime

Is Theft Legally Different from Robbery or Burglary?

You can face charges for theft under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 § 3921 if you are accused of taking control over or unlawfully taking someone else’s property or services with the intent to deprive them of that property or services permanently.

Theft does not involve trespassing on someone else’s property or intimidating another party. For this reason, theft is significantly different from burglary or robbery. However, you could still face harsh penalties if convicted of theft, including jail or prison time, fines, community service, probation, and other collateral consequences.

Can I Be Convicted of Both Robbery and Burglary at Once?

According to Pennsylvania law, you cannot also be charged with burglary unless you are charged with a first or second-degree robbery offense. For this reason, it is of utmost importance for your attorney to work with the prosecutor to reduce any first or second-degree robbery charges to a lesser offense to avoid facing multiple criminal convictions.

The laws surrounding burglary, robbery, and theft in the state of Pennsylvania can be complex. You may have an easier time understanding what you are up against when you have a private criminal defense attorney advocating for your rights.

Call a Chester County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whether you are facing robbery or burglary charges, your future could be jeopardized. If you hope to dodge the devastating fallout of a conviction, make sure you prepare the strongest defense possible.

Reach out to an aggressive Chester County criminal defense lawyer at Skinner Law Firm to discuss your potential defenses. Contact us at (610) 436-1410 or our secure contact form to schedule your confidential case evaluation as soon as today.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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