Burglary vs Robbery - What's the Difference?
14 Apr

Burglary vs Robbery – What’s the Difference?

We often hear people talking about crimes involving burglary and robbery. Sometimes, people even use both words when talking about the same offence.

However even though both offences involve theft, there are important differences between the two charges.

These differences can affect:

  • How a case is investigated
  • Defences that may be available
  • What penalties can apply

In this article, we look at the two offences and then discuss which one is worse.

What is Burglary?

Burglary offences are often referred to as “break and enter” or “unlawful entry” offences. This is because burglary involves entering a property and then committing (or attempting to commit) certain offences.

Prosecutors need to prove certain things took place before a court will find a person guilty of burglary.

In particular, the prosecutors will need to prove that:

  1. The accused person entered a dwelling (where someone can live, regardless of whether someone is living there at the time); and
  2. The accused person intended to commit an “indictable” offence.

An indictable offence is one that can be dealt with in either a District or Supreme Court.

The maximum penalty for an ordinary burglary offence is 14 years imprisonment.

However, the maximum penalty can increase significantly depending on the circumstances.

A person will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if he or she:

  • Committed the offence at night;
  • Used or threatened to use actual violence;
  • Was or pretended to be armed;
  • Was in company with one or more people; or
  • Damaged, or threatened to damage, any property.

A person will also be liable to life imprisonment if they entered the dwelling by means of a “break”. This can include simply opening a window and climbing through.

According to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council:

  • The average age of burglary offenders is 22.6 years;
  • About 87% of offenders are male;
  • Approximately 48% of offenders are sentenced to imprisonment;
  • The average jail sentence is 1.5 years.

Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a burglary charge can be dealt with in a Magistrates Court, District Court or (occasionally) a Supreme Court. Most cases (86%) are finalised in a Magistrates Court.

What is Robbery?

A charge of robbery does not generally require entering any property.

Instead, the prosecutors must prove that:

  1. The accused person stole something; and
  2. The accused person used, or threatened to use, actual violence against a person or property before, during or after stealing the thing.

It does not matter what type of violence is threatened or used. Any degree of violence is sufficient and even a fear of violence is enough.

The maximum penalty for robbery is 14 years imprisonment.

However, the maximum penalty increases to life imprisonment if the accused person:

  • Was or pretended to be armed (known as armed robbery);
  • Was in company with one or more people; or
  • Wounded the person they were stealing from.

According to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council:

  • The average age of robbery offenders is 22.6 years;
  • About 87% of offenders are male;
  • Approximately 71% of offenders are sentenced to imprisonment;
  • The average jail sentence is 3.2 years.

Robbery offences must be finalised in either a District Court or, in only a few cases, a Supreme Court.

What is Worse – Burglary or Robbery?

As a general rule, it is possible to work out how serious an offence is based on the maximum penalties that can apply. The higher the maximum penalty, the more serious the offence.

In the case of burglary and robbery offences, they both have the same maximum penalties.

For straightforward offences, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment. However, this increases to life imprisonment for both offences where the circumstances are in a worse category (such as armed robbery or where there is physical violence).

This would suggest that both offences are as serious as each other.

Burglary offences, however, can be dealt with in a Magistrates Court and the average jail sentence is 1.5 years. On the other hand, robbery offences must be dealt with in a District Court and the average jail sentence is 3.2 years.

Therefore based on these statistics, it becomes apparent that robbery offences are treated more seriously by both the lawmakers and the courts.

Don’t be fooled though – both offences are extremely serious and neither should be treated lightly.

Have You Been Charged with Burglary or Robbery?

Both offences are violent crimes and there is a very real risk of time in custody if you are convicted.

Therefore if you have been charged with either burglary or robbery, you need to seek legal advice immediately. Our criminal lawyers will use their experience to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible.

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