Is there a difference between theft, robbery, and burglary in Pennsylvania?

Many Pennsylvanians confuse theft, robbery, and burglary. If you are unclear about the differences between these three crimes, you need to learn what they are. Understanding these offenses can help you to avoid being charged with one of them. If you have been arrested and charged with one of these offenses, contact DiCindio Law to learn about your charges and the defenses that might be available to you.

Theft in Pennsylvania

You can be charged with theft if you unlawfully take or exercise control over the moveable property of someone else when you have the intent to deprive him or her permanently of that property. Theft offenses differ from robbery and burglary because they don’t involve making threats to others or trespassing on the property of others. Under the theft law, the property includes anything that has value, and the moveable property is the property that can be moved from one location to another.

Theft by deception

Theft by deception involves obtaining or withholding someone else’s property through the use of deception. With this type of theft, the owner gives you control of the property because of your deception. This might include situations in which you create or reinforce a false impression about the value of the item, your intent regarding the item, or the law. It can also include your failure to correct a false impression that you have created or reinforced.

Theft by extortion

Theft by extortion involves you taking or withholding someone else’s property by threat. The threat that you make might include a threat to commit a crime, a threat to accuse someone else of a crime, a threat to expose a secret, a threat to take official action, a threat to testify in a legal case, or other types of threats that are meant to blackmail the victim.

Theft of mislaid property

Theft of mislaid property involves finding some property that has been lost and keeping it for yourself. This could include finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk and pocketing it instead of taking steps to find its rightful owner. You are required to take steps to find the rightful owner and to wait a specific amount of time before you can lawfully claim the property.

There are many other types of theft, including receiving stolen property, shoplifting, theft of trade secrets, theft of services, and others. If you have been charged with any type of theft, you need to talk to a lawyer at DiCindio Law.

Burglary charges in Pennsylvania

Burglary is considered to be a trespass offense instead of a theft offense. A person commits a burglary when he or she trespasses on the property of another person or business with the intent to commit a crime. Even if you did not enter a home with the intent to steal, you can still be charged with burglary if you intended to commit any other crime. You can be charged with burglary when someone is present and when someone is not present. You can also be charged with burglary when you enter a home or a business.

Robbery charges in Pennsylvania

Robbery is the most serious theft offense. Two types of robbery are recognized in Pennsylvania, including general robbery and force used in the theft of a motor vehicle, which is called robbery of a motor vehicle. You may be charged with a robbery if you threatened another person or injured him or her while you committed a theft. Robbery can also occur when you use force to take something away from someone else such as during a mugging.

Armed robbery involves using a knife, gun, or fake weapon to commit the offense. If you injure the other person, you may also be charged with aggravated assault.

Potential defenses to theft, robbery, and burglary

The Pennsylvania penal code contains some statutory defenses to theft, burglary, and robbery. In addition, other defenses might be available to you. Some of the defenses that you might raise include the following:

  • Self-defense or defense of others such as when you take a gun away from someone to protect yourself and others
  • Preventing a serious crime
  • Necessity
  • Duress
  • Involuntary intoxication
  • Insanity
  • Entrapment

You may also have a defense available to you if you did not intend to permanently deprive someone of their property to a theft charge. For example, if you borrowed something from someone with the intent to return the property, you will have a defense to a theft charge. It is also a defense if you are charged with taking the property of another when you believe that the property is yours. This will require you to present evidence showing why you had a good faith belief that you owned the property.

At DiCindio Law, we understand the rules, laws, and procedures that are needed to defend our clients who are charged with all types of theft offenses as well as with robbery or burglary offenses. We work to stay current with changes in the law so that we are better able to present strong defenses for our clients.

Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with theft, robbery, or burglary, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You should treat all criminal charges seriously because they can result in lengthy jail or prison sentences, stiff fines, restitution, and other penalties. Even after you have completed your sentence, having a conviction for theft, burglary, or robbery on your criminal record can cause long-lasting collateral consequences. You may have trouble finding employment or housing. By getting help from an attorney at DiCindio Law, you might increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.

Robbery or Burglary in Pennsylvania


Chester County Criminal Lawyer
Chester County Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael D. DiCindio, Esq.

Many people commonly describe their home being broken into as “them getting robbed.” What many do not know is that, generally, this scenario in Pennsylvania is legally a Burglary.   Whether a crime is a robbery or a burglary in Pennsylvania boils down to the specific facts involved. A burglary in Pennsylvania occurs when an individual enters a building without permission and with the intent to commit a crime within. A robbery in Pennsylvania is able to be boiled down to a person using some level of force, or threat of force, during the course of committing a theft. Therefore, if your home is broken into, and your things are stolen, but you are not there or involved – you were not “robbed.”

There, of course, are different factual scenarios that would fit each crime depending on the circumstances, further, there are different variations within the statutes for each (the statutes can be found below). In the end, it is important to know that whether you or someone you love has been charged with robbery or burglary in Pennsylvania and the differences between each.  The defenses differ for both, but there is no doubt they are facing heavy potential penalties and a felony being on their record. Contact DiCindio Law, LLC to speak to Mike DiCindio directly and begin preparing your defense today.


18 Pa.C.S § 3701.  Robbery.

(a)  Offense defined.

(1)  A person is guilty of robbery if, in the course of committing a theft, he:

(i)  inflicts serious bodily injury upon another;

(ii)  threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate serious bodily injury;

(iii)  commits or threatens immediately to commit any felony of the first or second degree;

(iv)  inflicts bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate bodily injury;

(v)  physically takes or removes property from the person of another by force however slight; or

(vi)  takes or removes the money of a financial institution without the permission of the financial institution by making a demand of an employee of the financial institution orally or in writing with the intent to deprive the financial institution thereof.

(2)  An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing a theft” if it occurs in an attempt to commit theft or in flight after the attempt or commission.

(3)  For purposes of this subsection, a “financial institution” means a bank, trust company, savings trust, credit union or similar institution.


18 Pa.C.S. § 3502.  Burglary.

(a)  Offense defined.–A person commits the offense of burglary if, with the intent to commit a crime therein, the person:

(1)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense any person is present;

(2)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense no person is present;

(3)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is not adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense any person is present; or

(4)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is not adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense no person is present.

(b)  Defense.–It is a defense to prosecution for burglary if any of the following exists at the time of the commission of the offense:

(1)  The building or structure was abandoned.

(2)  The premises are open to the public.

(3)  The actor is licensed or privileged to enter.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale