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Burglary vs. Robbery: What’s the Difference?

Burglar breaking in

A couple returns home after a long day at work. To their shock, their possessions are gone. “We’ve been robbed!” one of them shouts. While we understand the meaning, the couple wasn’t robbed at all. That’s because burglary and robbery are two entirely different legal concepts.


Illinois defines burglary as entering another person’s property (including a vehicle) without authority with the intention of committing a felony or theft. That means burglary isn’t the same as trespassing, for example, because there’s an intent to commit additional crimes once inside.

In Illinois, accused burglars may receive an additional charge if they had burglary tools (such as lockpicks) or an improperly obtained key. However, a charge for possessing these items still requires intent. Meaning that owning lockpicks is not a crime unless someone intended to use them to commit burglary.


Robbery describes an incident where someone directly takes something from another person. That might mean taking their wallet or ripping shopping bags out of their hands. That means the couple in the beginning were not victims of robbery because they were not confronted directly.

Aggravated robbery describes instances where the offender indicates that they have a weapon either verbally, through miming, or by branding a weapon. This charge still applies even if law enforcement determines that the accused robber did not have a weapon at all.

Understanding the difference between burglary and robbery makes a huge difference. If a burglar directly takes something from a building resident, they could face a much more serious charge, especially if they have a weapon.

If you have questions about concealed theft laws, you may wish to hire an attorney. If you’d like an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney from Law Office of Steven Fine to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (312) 436-0638.