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Published on 4/5/2022, 2:42:00 PM

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Robbery vs Theft vs Burglary in Maryland.

Criminal Lawyers are often asked, what is the difference between Burglary, robbery, and theft, as these terms are often used interchangeably in television, movies, and by non-lawyers. This article seeks to address the difference between these criminal acts.

What is Burglary?

Burglary in Maryland comes in four varying degrees that all share one common element, a trespass onto the property of another. Where a person specifically trespasses, and when they intend to do, makes up the differences in the varying degrees of burglary in Maryland. Burglary is generally viewed as a property crime; however, several forms of burglary in Maryland are considered "crimes of violence".

The four degrees of Burglary are:

1. First Degree Burglary

Man inside home burglarFirst Degree burglary is a felony, punishable by up to twenty years of jail time. For the State to prove a Burglary in the first degree, they must show:

(1) that there was a breaking;

(2) that there was an entry;

(3) that the breaking and entry was into a dwelling

(4) that the breaking and entry was done with the intent to commit theft inside the dwelling; and

(5) that the defendant was the person who broke and entered.

If the State can show that the breaking and entry was done with the intent to commit a crime of violence, they can prove home invasion, which carries a twenty five year maximum sentence.

2. Second Degree Burglary

Second Degree Burglary is also a felony that carries a maximum of fifteen years of jailtime. There are some differences between First and Second Degree burglary, namely the location of the breaking, and what a person intends to do inside. For the State to prove Second Degree Burglary, they must prove:

(1) that there was a breaking;

(2) that there was an entry;

(3) that the breaking and entry was into someone else's building/storehouse

(4) that the breaking and entry was done with the intent to commit theft or a crime of violence or arson in the second degree

(5) that the defendant was the person who broke and entered

If a person enters a store with the intent to steal a firearm, then the maximum penalty moves up to twenty years.

3. Third Degree Burglary

A Third Degree Burglary is also a felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration. Third Degree Burglary is nearly identical to first degree burglary, with one exception, what the person intends to do inside the dwelling. For a third degree burglary, the State has the option of arguing a person intended to commit "any crime", which includes a lot more conduct than "intent to commit theft"

4. Fourth Degree Burglary

Fourth degree burglary is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of three years, and includes any breaking and entering a dwelling, storehouse, or property of another without consent.

What is Robbery?

Robbery is a person crime, and can be loosely defined as taking someone's property through the threat or use of force.

Robbery is a felony in Maryland and carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years of jail time. Robbery is a violent crime for the purposes of Maryland sentencing and parole.

To prove a robbery, the State of Maryland must show:

(1) that the defendant took the property from the victim

(2) that the defendant took the property by force or threat of force; and

(3) that the defendant intended to deprive the victim of the property.

Armed Robbery - Robbery with a Deadly Weapon

Man holding up person with gunIf a person commits Robbery with a weapon, the State can seek charges of "Armed Robbery" or "Robbery with a dangerous weapon". Armed Robbery charges are also a felony, and carry a maximum penalty of twenty years.

To prove Robbery with a deadly weapon, the State must show all of the above elements of robbery and prove that the defendant committed robbery by using a Dangerous weapon

A "dangerous weapon" is defined as an object that is capable of causing death or serious bodily harm. This definition allows the State to argue seemingly harmless weapons can be "deadly" like a large rock, or a even a pair of scissors. Most commonly this offense is charged when a person employs a gun or knife during a robbery.


Robbery of a motor vehicle has a special name in Maryland, "Carjacking". Similar to robbery vs armed robbery, carjacking has an "armed carjacking enhancement as well.

To prove carjacking, the State must show:

(1) that the defendant obtained unauthorized possession or control of a motor vehicle;

(2) that the motor vehicle was in the actual possession of another person at that time; and

(3) that the defendant used force or violence against that person or put that person in fear, through intimidation or threat of force or violence, in order to obtain the motor vehicle.

Carjacking and Armed carjacking are felonies that carry maximum penalties of thirty years of jail time, and are considered crimes of violence for Maryland sentencing and parole.

Burglary vs Robbery Chart

Burglary vs Robbery Chart Maryland Law

What is Theft?

"Theft" is a term used in the Maryland Code to describe a wide array of criminal conduct. There are several different forms of theft including:

  1. Motor Vehicle Theft,

  2. Credit Card Theft,

  3. Identity Theft,

  4. Issuing Bad Checks,

  5. Embezzlement

and more

Misdemeanor vs Felony Theft

  • Theft in Maryland comes in both Misdemeanor and Felony variants and carries penalties ranging from:

  • Theft of less than $100 Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days of incarceration and a $500 fine

  • Theft of $100 to $1,500 Misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of incarceration and a $500 fine

  • Theft of $1,500 to $25,000 Felony punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine

  • Theft of $25,000 to $100,000 Felony punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine

  • Theft over $100,000 Felony punishable by 20 years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine

There are additional nuances to theft related to vehicles and credit cards as well.

Theft vs Burglary

Theft is a property crime, and is considered non-violent. Burglary in the first degree requires a showing that a person intended to commit theft.

When trying to judge Burglary vs Theft, a person needs to consider that theft is a lesser included crime, meaning that a person cannot be convicted of Burglary in the First degree without the State proving that person intended to commit theft during the breaking and entering.

Maryland also has a special theft charge for motor vehicles, rogue and vagabond, which is a common law misdemeanor.

Theft vs Robbery

Every Robbery involves a theft. Whether you're charged with Armed Robbery, or Carjacking, a theft must occur for a Robbery to be proven in Court. Theft does not involve the use of any force, or the threat of force. For a robbery to occur, a theft must occur, and an assault. The crimes of theft and assault are lesser included offenses of Robbery.

Difference between Robbery and Burglary

Criminal charges for Robbery are very different than Burglary, as burglary involves a trespass, and Robbery involves an assault, or a threat of force. Theft burglary and robbery are all separately defined crimes in Maryland; however, they share common elements and can be charged in the same criminal case.

All robberies involve the taking of property; however, many burglaries do not. All robberies involve the threat of force, but most burglaries don't. Burglary and robbery are different felony crimes in Maryland, and don't often arise from the same conduct.

Speak with a criminal lawyer about your case

If you're trying to decipher the meaning of charges brought against you or a loved one, it's important to discuss your case with a qualified criminal defense lawyer. The criminal defense attorneys with FrizWoods understand the difference between theft burglary and robbery, and they can provide legal advice during a free consultation.

Concerned about a criminal case? Speak with an attorney today. We can help develop a defense strategy in your case, and ensure that you are protected in Court.