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The Difference Between Robbery and Burglary in Tennessee

When it comes to crimes concerning stealing, people tend to use the terms robbery, burglary and theft interchangeably. While each constitutes a form of stealing, they are not the same in the eyes of the law. Each one is a separate charge and comes with different penalties.

Understanding your charges is the first step to building a strong defense, so review the difference between robbery, burglary and other theft crimes.


Theft is the broad term for taking away someone else's property without the owner's consent. The value of the goods determines if the crime is petty larceny (misdemeanor) or grand larceny (felony). 


Robbery specifically entails using violence or fear during the act, such as force or threats and is a class C felony. Aggravated robbery involves a deadly weapon, such as a firearm, or results in severe physical harm to a person, making it a class B felony. Both weapon use and bodily injury raise the charges to a class A felony.


Entering or hiding in a building or vehicle with the intent or an attempt to commit a crime, or succeeding in doing so, is burglary. The intended crime does not have to be theft; it can also be assault or any felony. Neither does the entering have to be by a body. Even using a remote-controlled device to get into the premises qualifies as burglary. Burglary of a building is a class D felony, whereas for vehicles it is a class E felony.

Other common theft crimes

Some forms of theft are more subtle, such as in the case of white-collar crimes. Embezzlement, insider trading, and fraud happen in the corporate world without weapons or trespassing. Other specific charges for theft crimes include the following:

  • Shoplifting
  • Auto theft
  • Extortion
  • Money laundering

A type that has increased in the digital age is identity theft, which falls under cybercrime.

Each of these criminal charges has its own unique definition in the law. Consequently, the strategy used to defend an alleged perpetrator will be based not only on the crime as defined in the law but also on the unique circumstances of the case. In defending someone, the savvy criminal defense attorney will carefully review all aspects of the case to determine how best to proceed.