The Difference Between Theft, Burglary, and Robbery Charges in Illinois

The terms theft, burglary, and robbery are often used synonymously and interchangeably in daily conversation, but the three are not the same. While your friends and family understand it to mean that items were taken without knowledge or approval, in a court of law, these terms indicate various behaviors and thus carry a variety of punishments upon conviction. If you are facing any theft crime charges, it is important to understand the difference and how they can impact your future.


Believe it or not, you do not have to take anything to face burglary charges. You simply need to enter into an area in which you did not have authorization. What makes burglary any different than trespassing? The most basic difference is the offender’s intent. The prosecution has the burden of proving that you intended to commit a felony or steal something. If they can demonstrate that you had intent, a conviction is a Class 2 felony which carries a prison sentence of three to seven years. If the break-in with intent occurred at a protected facility, such as a church or daycare, the penalty bumps up to a Class 1 felony with a mandatory four-year prison sentence but potentially up to 15 years. Either way, a fine of up to $25,000.00 may be applicable.


Theft is knowingly taking someone’s property without consent. Theft does not need to occur within a home necessarily and is chargeable if someone receives stolen goods, even if they paid for it and had no idea it was owned illegally. The severity of the charge range anywhere from petty theft misdemeanors up to felony charges. The level of the theft class is directly proportional to the dollar amount of the stolen goods. Sentences range from jail time of less than a year and a fine of up to $2,500.00 up to the most severe at 15 years serving time in the state penitentiary and a fine of up to $25,000.00.


Robbery is taking something from someone by force, like a purse or money from someone’s possession. Only taking it is theft, but if they felt threatened or there was mention of force if they did not cooperate, the theft charge escalates to robbery. If a weapon or other firearm was used in the robbery, then armed robbery charges are probable. If the victim had drugs in their system against their will during the robbery, aggravated robbery charges may ensue.

Know the Difference

It would be illogical to defend yourself against robbery charges when you were truthfully facing burglary accusations. This is an example of where it is imperative for you to know and understand the difference between the allegations. Using such knowledge on your behalf can lead to reduced or dropped charges. If you are interested in discussing your case with a proven and experienced Joliet theft crimes defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

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