Around the holiday season when people are giving gifts and leaving town, the police are on high alert for theft, burglary, and robbery. Oftentimes, people interchange the names of these crimes as though they are the same crime. While these crimes have similar elements, the consequences of being convicted of these crimes can be severely different. This post will focus on the similarities and differences of Robbery and Burglary, including the potential consequences for convictions. For more information on Theft, please see my previous blog post on the different kinds of theft and their criminal consequences.
Maine law generally defines burglary as when someone enters a structure knowing they do not have permission, or stays inside a structure knowing they do not have permission, with the intent to commit a crime in the structure. In order to be convicted of Burglary, the State must prove that (1) someone was in a structure without permission, and (2) intended to commit a crime while in the structure. For the first element, if someone did not know they were not allowed in the structure, this could be a defense against Burglary. A structure can be any building, and can even include vehicles. For the second element, if someone did not intend to commit a crime, even if they later did, this would not be Burglary. That charge would be Criminal Trespassing, a misdemeanor offense. The key point is the intent to commit a crime while in the structure. Burglary is typically a class C felony offense. The maximum sentence for a Class C offense is five years in prison, a $5,000.00 fine, and two years of probation. The state legislature has allowed classification enhancements for Burglary if certain conditions apply. Burglary can be a Class B felony offense (a maximum of ten years in prison, $20,000.00 fine, and three years of probation) when (1) someone intentionally or recklessly injures someone, or attempts to injure someone, either during or after the burglary; (2) is armed with a dangerous weapon, or knows their accomplice or partner in crime is armed with a dangerous weapon; (3) the structure is a dwelling place where people reside, or (4) has two or more prior convictions for theft or other similar conduct. Burglary can be a Class A felony offense (a maximum of thirty years in prison, a $50,000.00 fine, and four years of probation) if the person is armed with a firearm, or knows their accomplice has a firearm. While most burglaries have theft as the “intended crime” while inside a structure, Burglary is not limited to theft related crimes. Whether someone goes in a structure to steal, assault someone, destroy property, or to commit any other crime, these can all still be considered Burglary. Burglary is a complex crime, often with many defenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney will analyze the case and explore defenses that could save someone from facing serious consequences.
The crime of Robbery involves committing theft, but there are serious aggravating factors during the theft that change the charge from Theft to Robbery. Robbery is a Class B felony offense when the “robber” (1) recklessly injures someone during the crime, or (2) threatens force or puts someone in fear of force to either restrain them from stopping the theft or compelling them to give up the item. This form of Robbery does not require intent to injure someone, but if someone is injured due to reckless actions, the defendant may face this charge. Robbery becomes a Class A felony offense when the defendant (1) uses force to restrain resistance or compel a victim to give up the item, (2) intentionally inflicts bodily harm during the crime, or (3) is armed with a dangerous weapon, or knows their accomplice is armed, during the theft. While Robbery and Burglary are both very serious crimes with serious consequences, Robbery does not have the element of going into a structure. A classic form of Robbery is mugging, when someone is forced to give up their items, or is threatened so they will not stop a theft. Robbery usually requires a victim to see what is happening, which is different from Burglary. While Robbery can be the crime intended for Burglary purposes, committing Burglary is a very different crime than committing Robbery. Robbery charges have specific elements that must be proven, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer will have the tools necessary to review reports and investigate whether a Robbery occurred, whether the crime is just Theft, or if any crime took place at all.
Robbery and Burglary are serious offenses with serious consequences. If you have been charged with these crimes, or any other crime, call the attorneys of WTB LAW for an immediate consultation.