Before we dive headfirst into the real meat of this article, let’s first begin with a bit of background regarding the crimes of burglary and robbery. Otherwise, some of you who use social media sites and/or watching TV news and crime dramas as your main sources of research, may not know that burglary and robbery are not the same. Not even close.

I know, we’ve discussed this topic in the past, in great detail, but sometimes we forget.

Just today, if fact, a major news source published an article titled “British Olympian says medals were stolen from her home in robbery.”

I read the article thinking I’d see where the unfortunate female athlete was held up at gunpoint in her own home while the armed and dangerous bad guys forcibly snatched her precious awards and other items. This would’ve been a robbery. However, it was not a robbery.

The first paragraph tells readers that the distance runner received the news that her home had been ransacked while she was away. The family member who discovered the mess had gone to the house to check on the Olympian’s dog. This act was a burglary.

See the difference between the two crimes? This is yet another example of how the media so often gets it wrong?

So let’s again clear the air about the differences between the two crimes.

Burglary as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary: “The breaking and entering the house of another in the night-time, with intent to commit a felony therein, whether the felony be actually committed or not.”

In Virginia, where I served as law enforcement officer/investigator, the law governing burglary there in the Commonwealth, states:

§ 18.2-89. Burglary; how punished.

If any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary, punishable as a Class 3 felony; provided, however, that if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.§ 18.2-90. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson; penalty.

If any person in the nighttime enters without breaking or in the daytime breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in a dwelling house or an adjoining, occupied outhouse or in the nighttime enters without breaking or at any time breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in any building permanently affixed to realty, or any ship, vessel or river craft or any railroad car, or any automobile, truck or trailer, if such automobile, truck or trailer is used as a dwelling or place of human habitation, with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary, which offense shall be a Class 3 felony. However, if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

VA Code § 18.2-91

If any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-90 with intent to commit larceny, or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, or if any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-89 or § 18.2-90 with intent to commit assault and battery, he shall be guilty of statutory burglary, punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one or more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

§ 18.2-92. Breaking and entering dwelling house with intent to commit other misdemeanor.

If any person break and enter a dwelling house while said dwelling is occupied, either in the day or nighttime, with the intent to commit any misdemeanor except assault and battery or trespass, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Clear as mud, right?

Notice that I highlighted a brief portion of a sentence in red, and three specific words in blue—with intent to commit larceny or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson …” I did so to emphasize that robbery is not a portion of, or related to the basic crime of burglary. It is a separate offense.

Burglary and Robbery are not the same!

Okay, still confused when I say that robbery and burglary are not the same crime? You ask, how could this be the case when sooooooooo many TV news reports and fictional television shows time and time again tell us that “Ms. or Mr. Crime Victim’s” house was robbed?

Sit back and clear your mind for a second.

We learned just a few lines back that burglary involves the breaking and entering the house of another, and only a burglar, or burglars, are involved. No forcible taking an item or items from a victim.

Now, on to robbery.

Black’s Law definition of robbery.

“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property In the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear. Pen. Code Cal.”

Traveling back to Virginia, we see that robbery there is:

Virginia Code § 18.2-58. How punished.
6 replies
  1. lesedgerton
    lesedgerton says:

    Hi Lee, Nice explanations, but here you’re speaking of what is classified in Indiana as “first-degree burglary,” burglary performed on a dwelling. I was a burglar for some time, but strictly a second-degree burglar, which meant I only broke into businesses. Each state is different, but in Indiana, the primary difference is that it used to be first degree burglary called for a sentence of ten and a quarter and second degree sentences were either two to five or one to ten. I opted for a two-to-five for my sentence (and yes, the criminal got to choose,often.)

    The reason there are two degrees and different sentencing is that the reasoning is that breaking into a residence offers a larger chance someone might be present and therefore be at physical risk. Breaking into a bar doesn’t pose the same risks for occupants. Owners are usually home in bed.

    I made a conscious choice to be a second-degree burglar. Who wants to risk a ten and a quarter sentence for somebody’s f**ked up TV set?

    I was fairly successful. Performed over 400 burglaries and only caught caught twice. I think I was fairly smart. I drove a T-Bird, not some junker, and I usually wore a sports coat. Cops don’t associate those accouterments with burglars. Several times I got off just because of my attire. Once, I broke into a Laundermat in front of two state troopers sitting outside on their cars at 3 in the ayem. Just walked in like I owned the place, broke off the two coin changers on the wall with a tire iron, took them out to my trunk, waved at the officers and left. They waved back…

    The only reason I did time was two of my rappies rolled over on me for 84 of our burglaries they’d been with me on. The rest I did by myself. I didn’t cop to them but the cops threatened my girlfriend if I didn’t plead guilty so I did it for her. It was just a couple of years–just part of the price of business-and since I’d committed over 400, I felt I came out ahead of the game. When I got out, I didn’t have a “come to Jesus” moment but kept on committing crimes–just stopped getting caught. I can say that now as the statute of limitations is over. I finally did quit and it was because of age. Much like alcoholism, criminality seems to have a menopause age…

    I also did a couple of other things that kept me from getting caught. I rarely worked with anyone else and I never went into a place drunk of high. Only punks need chemical courage… To be honest, the main reason I pulled crimes was for the rush. I also performed armed robberies and strong-arm robberies. Variety…

    Anyone interested in the other side of burglary, might want to pick up a copy of my recently-released memoir, ADENALINE JUNKIE. I talk about some of those experiences in it…

    A lot has changed since those days–no one took fingerprints or any of that stuff for a burglary. But, this was in the pre-drug days so there was also a bit of honor between thieves and cops in those days. That’s kind of all gone.

    Not trying to glamorize crime, just to provide another side of it for a bit of balance.

    Blue skies,
    Les Edgerton

  2. Violet Carr Moore
    Violet Carr Moore says:

    Lee, Black’s Law Dictionary and the Virginia law of burglary you quoted both say “enter in the nighttime.” So is a daytime burglary not a punishable crime?

    • Lee Lofland
      Lee Lofland says:

      It’s a crime to break and enter during the daytime; however, it falls under a different code section. There are many different laws concerning this crime. Too many to list here. But I did add the section about which you asked. See above – § 18.2-92. Breaking and entering dwelling house with intent to commit other misdemeanor.

      Thanks for bringing it to my attention that I’d forgotten to include it.

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