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What is the Difference Between Burglary and Robbery in New York?


A common mistake people make when discussing theft crimes is using the words “Burglary” and “Robbery” interchangeably. But in the eyes of New York law, these two terms have very different meanings, and they can have very different legal consequences.

What Is Burglary?

The state of New York Penal Laws 140.20, 140.25, 140.30 criminalize the varying degrees of Burglary. Under each section, a Burglary occurs when a person enters a building, home or vehicle without permission with the intent to commit any crime, whether or not the person actually steals something. These spaces can be vacant, occupied, or unoccupied. The two elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable for Burglary are:

  1. The person entered a dwelling in which they were not permitted.
  2. The person had the intent to commit any crime once inside.

It is not necessary for theft to take place during a Burglary. Besides theft, the other most common intended crimes seen in a Burglary are sex crimes, and assaults. A Burglary offense can also be charged even if the intended crime is not yet committed.

There are three different Burglary offenses under New York’s Penal Law. Burglary in the First Degree, under Penal Law § 140.30, is the most serious and is considered a Class B felony. First degree Burglary is different from other types of Burglary in that violence, or the threat of violence is used, the premises involved is a home or dwelling and the offender:

  • Is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon, or
  • Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in
  • the crime, or
  • Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument, or
  • Displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other type of firearm

The maximum possible sentence for first degree Burglary in New York is 25 years in prison. Because this crime is also a violent felony, the judge is required to impose a minimum sentence of 5 years.

In New York, Burglary in the second degree, Penal Law § 140.25, is often referred to breaking and entering and is a class C felony. It’s defined as knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining in a building with the intent to commit a crime and at least one additional element (see the above bullets for additional elements). The term “knowingly” means a person must know that they are in a building to commit another crime. The sentence is 3.5 years to 15 years in prison.

Burglary in the third degree, New York Penal Law § 140.20, is when a person is guilty of knowingly entering or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein. It’s a class D felony. If convicted, the sentence is 1 to 3 years and a maximum of 7 years behind bars.

What Is Robbery?

Unlike Burglary, Robbery is any forcible stealing. New York Penal Law §’s 160.00, 160.05, 160.10, 160.15 all define Robbery as when a person uses force, violence, or the threat of violence while forcibly taking money or property from another person. The distinguishing element here is that the victim must be present for Robbery to take place. Armed Robbery is when the robber uses a weapon, or something appearing to be a weapon, with the intent to take an item of value from the victim.

Like Burglary, punishments for Robbery can vary based on circumstances and the additional criminal elements, as referenced in crimes of Burglary. Robbery in the first degree, New York Penal Law § 160.15, is a Class B felony punishable with a minimum of five years and up to a maximum of 25 years in prison. Robbery in the second degree, Penal Law § 160.10, is a Class C felony, punishable by 1.5 years up to 15 years in prison. And Robbery in the third degree, Penal Law § 160.05, is a class D felony, punishable up to a maximum of 7 years.

Make no mistake, both Burglary and Robbery are serious crimes in New York that require the accused to have an attorney on their side.

Charged with Burglary or Robbery? You Need to Hire a Criminal Attorney

Though the punishments for Burglary and Robbery differ, being convicted of either crime has the potential to impact your permanent record and affect you for the rest of your life. Those facing criminal charges need the expertise of Adam Bolotin, a criminal defense attorney that knows the ins and outs of the criminal justice system. Adam Bolotin has many years of experience representing clients facing criminal charges. If you or a loved one are facing serious criminal charges, call Mr. Bolotin directly at (646)-368-8688 or click here to schedule a free consultation.

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Adam Bolotin

Adam Bolotin is an aggressive criminal defense attorney, representing clients in all 5 of New York City's Boroughs, Chicago, Illinois, and nationwide. Mr. Bolotin has won numerous not guilty verdicts, suppressed incriminating evidence, and argued successful appeals. Mr. Bolotin takes immense personal pride in standing up to prosecutors, police officers, or anyone who comes between his clients and their freedom. If you are a loved one are facing serious criminal charges, don't hesitate, contact Adam today!

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