Burglary vs Robbery: What’s the Difference?

You might think that burglary and robbery are basically the same crimes. In reality, they have some key differences. When determining which type of crime someone committed, Colorado courts take into account several factors. The distinctions between burglary and robbery mainly involve where and how the unlawful taking of something happened. As a result, charges and sentencing vary depending on the type of crime committed, as well as the scale at which it occurred.

At the Weeden Law Firm, we fight Denver criminal charges with the strongest possible defense. Because criminal penalties in Colorado are incredibly severe, you shouldn’t delay in hiring an experienced theft attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Jeff Weeden has an incredibly deep understanding of criminal law, and has already helped to defend countless Colorado residents. If you’ve been charged with or arrested for burglary or robbery, call the Weeden Law Firm today at 720-307-4330 to set up a free consultation.

Burglary vs Robbery: What’s the Difference?

Burglary occurs if a perpetrator unlawfully enters an area with the intent to steal or commit a felony. Robbery occurs if a perpetrator unlawfully takes something directly from someone, either by force or threat of violence. Below, we outline the specific elements of each type of crime.

  • Burglary includes illegally entering a building with the intent to steal something or commit a felony while inside that building. It is a property crime.
  • Robbery includes taking money or property directly from a person through force or threat of violence without their consent, with the intent to keep it permanently. It is a violent crime.

What does the difference mean for victims?

Victims of burglary or robbery suffer more than just financial losses. Sometimes, they face emotional or mental trauma, or even injury. Even though people use these terms interchangeably in movies and popular culture, they are two distinctly different crimes. They have different ways that victims respond, different investigations, and different kinds of help.

If a victim is robbed, they will call a law enforcement officer right away. Once emergency support arrives, they will recount their experience in as much detail as possible. They should include what happened before, during, and after the incident, which direction the perpetrator went, how the perpetrator left, what they looked like, what they wore, what was taken, and if they were injured. Law enforcement will then point the victim to crime compensation boards and victim advocacy services.

If a victim is burglarized, they will immediately call the police. The scene should not be tampered with until law enforcement conducts its initial investigation. An officer will ask the victim several questions, including the following.

  • How did the perpetrator enter the building?
  • Was anyone inside the building?
  • Did the perpetrator break or damage anything?
  • What was stolen?
  • Did anyone have knowledge that the building was empty?
  • Have any unusual people passed through the area?

In the event of a burglary, it is a good idea for victims to take pictures of the scene for insurance purposes, make a list of damaged or stolen items, and review the security of their home. One of the best ways to protect a property is to install a security system, and to keep expensive items locked away if nobody is in the building.

Does a weapon need to be used in a robbery?

No. Simple robbery does not involve the use of a deadly weapon. Aggravated robbery, however, does. It involves circumstances which increase the crime’s severity, such as the use of a deadly weapon. Common deadly weapons include knives, blunt objects, tools, broken bottles, or even parts of the body in certain states.

If a perpetrator uses a weapon during a robbery, they commit aggravated robbery. This is a much more serious crime than simple robbery, and incurs more serious penalties. It is a class 3 felony and an “extraordinary risk crime”, subject to a minimum of 4 years in prison and a $3,000 fine. The maximum sentences are 16 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. Extraordinary risk crimes in Colorado are those which pose a significant risk of causing harm to society.

How often do burglaries occur?

Burglaries happen more often you might think. According to FBI crime statistics, one burglary occurs every 25.7 seconds in the United States. That’s over two burglaries per minute, and over 3,300 in a day. In Colorado, over 20,000 burglaries occurred in 2019. On average, victims of burglaries lose around $2,800 in monetary value. Many people who experience burglaries also report a drop in their mental or emotional health.

Interestingly, most burglaries actually happen during the day, specifically between noon and 4 pm, rather than at night. Additionally, burglaries occur more often during summer months. Rural states also see more burglaries than highly metropolitan areas, and renters are burglarized more often than homeowners.

What are the penalties?

Depending on the scope and severity of the crime, burglary and robbery have different penalties. Our experienced defense attorneys outline the possible penalties and classification for each.

  • Simple Robbery: Class 4 felony. Up to 6 years in prison, and $2,000-$500,000 in fines.
    • Aggravated Robbery: Up to 32 years in prison, and $750,000 maximum fine.
  • Burglary: Always a felony. From 1 to 48 years in prison, and $1,000-$1,000,000 in fines. The penalties for burglary depend heavily on the degree of the crime, as well as where or what you broke into. 

What defenses are there?

At Weeden Law, we know that burglary and robbery charges ruin lives. That’s why we have a wide variety of defenses for robbery and burglary charges in Denver.  Below, we’ll go into detail about how we defend our clients against robbery and burglary charges.


  • Your intention wasn’t to take anything.
  • You had reason to believe that the property you took was yours.
  • There was no weapon involved.
  • Even if you had a weapon, your intention was not to use it.
  • Certain goods or evidence against you were taken during an illegal search or seizure.


  • You were lawfully allowed to be on the property in question.
  • Your intention was not to commit a crime on the property.
  • You did now know that you were not allowed to be on the property.

Do I Need a Denver Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you were charged with robbery or burglary, don’t delay the fight for your future. You might be wondering if you need a criminal lawyer in Colorado. These are life-changing convictions, and you don’t want this negative impact to leave you struggling to move forward. At Weeden Law, we’ve cultivated our criminal defense craft since 2005 and fight aggressively for our clients. Our case results speak for us when we say we know what we’re doing. Reach out to our office at 720-307-4330 today to set up your free consultation, or visit our website to learn more.


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