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The terms “burglary”, and “robbery” are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between these offenses. In simple terms:

  • Robbery involves forcibly taking property from another person with or without the victim’s consent.
  • Burglary involves breaking into someone’s home with the intent in order to steal property and commit another crime.

Robbery and burglary both involve the actual taking of a person’s property and the use of force or fear, but robbery is more serious because it involves the intent to take property (or commit some additional crime). The definitions of robbery differ from one jurisdiction to another.

  • The act of taking property illegally
  • That is in the possession of another
  • From another person or immediate presence
  • Without that person’s consent, accomplished by force or fear.

Some jurisdictions classify crime into more specific levels of degrees. (first- and second-degree). Most states define burglary as entering any commercial or residential structure or locked vehicle with the intent of stealing something or committing another crime once inside. However, theft is the taking of someone else’s property without their consent, which is separate from robbery and burglary. Some jurisdictions refer to theft as “larceny.”


Most states hold that a person is guilty of robbery if he or she:

  • Takes something of value – money, property, or information – from another person.
  • When you take property that is in the possession of another party, or in that party’s immediate presence.
  • Taking the property against the owner’s will
  • Committed to taking property by the use of force, a threat of force, or a threat of violence.


The penalties for robbery are set forth in Penal Code 213 PC. Penalties depend on whether you committed the crime of robbery of the first degree or of the second degree. Robbery is a serious crime, carrying penalties that include state prison sentences of three to nine years for first-degree robbery and two to five years for second-degree robbery. Robbery is also a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes Law”, which doubles the prison sentence for any future felony convictions.


Robbery in the First Degree:

If first-degree robbery is conducted by:

  • Any driver or passenger on a bus, taxi, streetcar, subway, cable car, etc.,
  • Any person in an inhabited structure, or
  • Any person who has just used an ATM and is still in the vicinity of the ATM.

And, a person will charge with first-degree robbery when an accused commits robbery and also:

  • Is armed with a deadly weapon,
  • Shows up a firearm or deadly weapon,
  • Causes bodily injury while committing the crime, or
  • Robs a financial institution.

Penalties for First-Degree Robbery include:

First-degree robbery in California is a felony with the potential consequence of a lengthy prison sentence. Felony (formal) probation;

  • Three (3), four (4), or six (6) years in California state prison; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

If you commit first-degree robbery in an inhabited structure, in concert with two (2) or more other people, then you could face a potential state prison sentence of three (3), six (6), or nine (9) years.

Robbery in the Second Degree:

California’s second-degree robbery statute applies to any robbery that does not meet the definition of first-degree robbery. Robbery occurs when a person steals and either:

  • Uses or exhibits a weapon that can cause death, or
  • Causes bodily injury to someone.

Penalties for Second-Degree Robbery include:

Robbery in the second degree is a felony, punishable by the following penalties:

  • Felony probation;
  • Two (2), three (3), or five (5) years in state prison; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).


A person is guilty of burglary if he or she:

  • Enters a building or occupied structure,
  • With the intent to commit theft or felony.

If the burglar can show that the abandoned property was in his/her possession at the time of the alleged offense, then it is often a defense to prosecution. Some states classify burglary into varying degrees and levels. For example, Indiana has five levels of burglary, with level one being the least severe and level five being the most severe. According to Indiana’s criminal laws:

  • Level 5 burglary refers to the most serious form of burglary.
  • Level 4 burglary is committed when the defendant enters a building that is a dwelling,
  • Level 3 burglary is committed when the criminal act resulted in physical harm to a person other than the offender.
  • Level 2 burglary occurs when a person commits a crime while carrying a deadly weapon, or causes serious bodily injury to another person.
  • Level 1 burglary occurs when a person entered a building that was a dwelling, causing serious bodily injury to someone.

In some states, forcible entry is a required element of burglary; in others, it is not. In addition, most jurisdictions have their own laws regarding a residential burglary. This will happen when:

  • A person enters a dwelling without permission, and
  • Does so with the intent to commit a crime (while not a type of theft or a felony).

Many states hold the view that all burglary offenses are felonies and punishable by state prison terms and/or significant fines. In some states and countries, burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor forms of burglary carry less severe penalties like custody in jail for up to six months or one year.


If you are charged with PC 459 burglary, the consequences depend on whether you are charged with first-degree burgling or second-degree burgling.

First-Degree Burglary Penalties:

First-degree burglary is a felony in California law. The punishment for first-degree burglary may include:

  • Felony (formal) probation;
  • Two (2) years, four (4) years, or six (6) years in California state prison; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

In addition, it is a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes law.


Second-Degree Burglary Penalties

Second-degree commercial burglary carries lighter penalties than first-degree. Second-degree/commercial burglary is what is known as a “wobbler,” which means that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor at the prosecutor’s discretion. A felony conviction for second-degree commercial burglary carries:

  • Felony probation;
  • Sixteen (16) months, two (2) years, or three (3) years served in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

When you’re convicted of a misdemeanor second-degree/commercial burglary, the sentencing guidelines may include the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor (summary) probation;
  • Up to one (1) year in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).


Although robbery involves the actual taking of someone else’s property, burglary simply requires that someone enter a structure with the intent to take something. In addition, a person can commit robbery only when he or she exhibits some type of force or threat of force or violence against another person. And a person can commit burglary without exhibiting any type of aggressive or threatening behavior. Burglary is a crime that occurs when someone enters a structure with the intent to steal. It doesn’t matter what kind of behavior you exhibit or how hostile you are.

If a person enters someone’s home without permission and takes something, he or she has committed burglary. But if during that time, the owner of the home returns and finds their property gone, and someone threatens to harm him or her in order to take something, then the person has committed both burglary and robbery.

In other words, robbery is a crime of violence while burglary is a crime against property. In general, police have easier time-solving robberies because there was someone who saw what happened. Burglaries often occur without the victims being aware of it.

Call Us For Help… If you or a loved one has been accused of burglary or robbery in Los Angeles, please contact us at Tabibnia Law for more information about your legal rights and options. A burglary or robbery conviction has serious legal and personal consequences, and our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will fight hard to ensure that your rights are protected and your charges are dismissed or reduced. Contact us today and we can help you!

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Tabibnia Law Firm retains years of experience successfully representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes,Theft Crimes, Crime Against Children, Driving Crimes, Rape Crimes, driving under the influence (DUIs), domestic violence cases, drug possession cases, state and federal crimes, white color crimes, driving on a suspended license offenses, violent crimes, sex crimes, Forgery and all other criminal defense cases throughout Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California. Call for a consultation today: 866-713-2159

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