Illinois residents may be confused when crimes that seem similar are sometimes referred to as burglaries and on other occasions as thefts or robberies. While all of these crimes are associated with stealing, there are important differences between them. It is also possible for one incident to lead to an individual being charged with all of these offenses.
Under criminal law statutes, burglary is entering a building illegally with the intent of committing a crime. The crime does not have to be theft, and nothing need be taken. Theft is taking something without the owner’s consent, and robbery is stealing by using force. A pickpocket is a thief, a mugger is a robber and an individual who breaks into a house to steal a television set is both a burglar and a thief.
Individuals can, on rare occasions, be charged with burglary, robbery and theft. A man breaking into a building with the intent of spraying graffiti on the wall is committing burglary. If he notices and picks up an item while inside the building, he will have committed theft. If he is then surprised by a security guard and brandishes a weapon in order to escape, he could also face a robbery charge.
The sanctions associated with these charges can vary greatly. The penalties for theft may be higher if the item concerned is particularly valuable or rare, and a robbery resulting in significant injuries will be treated seriously even if nothing of value was taken. Criminal defense attorneys may seek to have burglary, theft or robbery charges dismissed during plea discussions with prosecutors by questioning the behavior of the police officers involved or disputing the validity of search warrants or witness identifications. Defense attorneys could also seek to have criminal penalties reduced by pointing out mitigating factors such as the remorse and prior good behavior of their clients.