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What Are the Differences Between Theft, Burglary and Robbery?

Theft, burglary and robbery are often thought to be the same thing. However, from a legal standpoint, they all have subtle differences from each other. In this article, Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers will outline just how different these terms are below.

What Is Theft?

The most basic definition of theft is where you intentionally take something from someone else without their permission. Section 332 (1) of Canada’s Criminal Code explains the scope of a theft:

  1. (1) Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent

(a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;

(b) to pledge it or deposit it as security;

(c) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or

(d) to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.

Time when theft completed

(2) A person commits theft when, with intent to steal anything, he moves it or causes it to move or to be moved, or begins to cause it to become movable.


(3) A taking or conversion of anything may be fraudulent notwithstanding that it is effected without secrecy or attempt at concealment.

Purpose of taking

(4) For the purposes of this Act, the question whether anything that is converted is taken for the purpose of conversion, or whether it is, at the time it is converted, in the lawful possession of the person who converts it is not material.

Again, intent is a major component of theft. A person meant to take the object and deprive its owner of their use or convert it to a state where it cannot be used as intended, for a theft to have occurred.

There are two types of theft in Canada based on the value of the goods stolen. If they are valued under $5,000, the theft case will be tried as either an indictable offence or a less serious summary offence depending on how the Crown wishes to proceed.

If the stolen items are valued at over $5,000, then the case will be indictable. You could face up to 10 years in prison, a hefty fine, or both, for this more serious offence.

What are the Differences Between a Burglary and a Robbery?

A common misunderstanding of these two terms are understandable because they are, in some ways, very similar. It should be noted here that the term “burglary” is no longer used in the Criminal Code, and offences under this category now fall under Break and Enter provisions. Our addition of burglary is from a historical perspective in how it was used.

Both a burglary and a robbery involve property and theft. However, in a burglary, a victim did not have to be present, though they could be. In a robbery, a victim is present. That is the main difference, though there are other distinctions.

Essentially, burglary referred to the act of gaining illegal access to a structure, such as a home, to carry out any other serious offence. Again, a victim did not have to be at the scene of the crime for a burglary to have taken place. However, a robbery is the illegal act of taking a valuable from a person using intimidation or force. A victim has to be at the scene of a theft for the robbery to happen.

How Is Robbery Different from a Theft?

Robbery is distinguished from a theft in that the use of violence is present. If you use threats or violence to obtain property, that’s robbery — not theft. You could use a weapon or an imitation weapon in a robbery. Therefore, and understandably, robbery is much more serious from a theft. It is always an indictable offence. You could face a fine of more than $5,000 or up to 10 years in prison, or both.

I’ve Been Charged with Theft or Robbery

If you are looking for a lawyer to defend you against a theft or robbery charge, Ottawa’s Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers offers a free 30-minute private consultation. Contact us by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at yourteam@armouredsuits.ca to book your meeting.