We’ve all seen those scary media reports of people’s home being robbed, right? You know, the stories describing broken windows and doorjambs and missing televisions and jewelry. Security video sometimes captures intruders raiding innocent refrigerators and pantries, and the thugs (thug – noun: a violent person, especially a criminal) even have the nerve to drink straight from cartons of milk and juice.
Indeed, a home break-in and burglary while you’re away or asleep in your bedroom is a traumatic experience. Believe me, I know from both perspectives, as a detective who investigated more B&E’s than I could possibly count, and as someone whose home was burglarized. Yes, a dumb crook actually broke into the property of a police detective and thought they’d get away with it. Puhleeze.
Anyway, it’s time to quash yet another misuse found in many writings, including works of fiction. Yes, this bit of “wrong” is often seen in mysteries, romance, romantic suspense, thrillers, etc.
So what is this terminology faux pas that so boldly stands on equal ground with the horribly inaccurate use of the nonexistent “odor of cordite?”
It is (hang on to your hats) … the ROBBERY of a house.
To illustrate, let’s have a look at this “news” story. Notice the headline.
HOUSE ROBBED WHILE FAMILY AT MOVIE
Cordite, Va – The home of I. Will Fillemfullalead on Glock Circle in Cordite was robbed last night between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The family was away enjoying a movie at a local theater at the time of the atrocious crime.
The robbers left the Fillemfullalead’s with very little. The Red Cross has offered their assistance.
“When we got home, we saw that our house had been robbed. They took everything, right down to to the kid’s handguns and reloading kits. They even took the goldfish and a brand new box of C-4 we’d planned to use for blowing up a few old stumps in the back yard.” said Mrs. Fillemfullalead. “I hope the police catch them before we do, or there’ll never be a trial.”
Police spokesperson, Captain I. M. Overwait, says investigators have no leads at this time. He vows, though, that his department will catch the robbers.
Okay, does this report sound a bit familiar? How many times have you seen headlines similar to the one above? Well, too many times if you ask me, because a house cannot be robbed. No way, no how. The legal definition of a robbery is this: To take something (property) from a person by force, violence, or threat.
From a PERSON. Not an inanimate object. From a PERSON. Not a building. Not a car. Not a boat. Not a plane. Not even a pic-a-nic baskeet.
So no, Yogi, an inanimate object cannot be robbed. Not even an object as valuable as a picnic baskeet.
A house or business cannot be threatened or intimadated. Nope, there has to be an actual person/human, present. And he/she must have felt threatened and/or intimidated by the robber when the goods were taken.
Therefore, the Fillemfullalead’s home had been burglarized, and their property stolen. Not robbed as the media often mistakenly reports.
Please do keep this in mind when writing your stories.
Many people have asked me to review books on this site, and I’ve resisted for a long time. Well, I finally caved in a while back and agreed to start. Lo and behold, the first book that came my way featured both “the odor of cordite” and a house being robbed. Needless to say, I won’t be reviewing that one.
Now, back to robbery. Here’s a real case that involved, well, see for yourself. It’s tragic to say the least.
In 2012, a Texas teenager, Claudia Hidac, was shot to death during a botched robbery attempt at a local residence. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the girl was found face down at the back door after gunfire broke out during the attempted robbery.
Hidac, the apparent “brains” of the operation, had directed two male accomplices to the residence where at least five people were at home at the time of the incident. One of Hidac’s partners was armed.
One of the three robbers kicked in the back door, and that’s when the exchange of gunfire erupted. The two male accomplices fled the scene, leaving 17-year-old Hidac dead from a shot to the head.
Both male accomplices have since been arrested, tried, and convicted for their parts in the robbery and murder. One, Curtis Fortenberry, 23, pled guilty to killing Claudia Hidic and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. The second man, Terrance Crumley, 23, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and theft charges and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Both are eligible for parole, though. Ironically, the man who discovered Hidac’s body was found four months later hogtied and strangled inside a burning car. He’d been murdered, obviously. But that’s a different story.
In the case of Hidac, well, there was clearly a threat to the people inside the home, and force and violence were clearly present at the time the crimes were committed. This was a robbery.
From Black’s Law Dictionary
No one was at home at the Fillemfullalead household, therefore, their home was burglarized.
Hopefully, I’ve made clear the difference between robbery and burglary.
What’s not clear is what drove Claudia Hidac to plan and commit such a crime.
Claudia Hidac – Facebook photo