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Is There a Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

In casual conversation, we don’t often use the proper legal terminology to describe our circumstances. For example, someone could come home to find their house ransacked. Furniture is turned over, drawers are pulled out and spilled, and the valuables are missing. This person may shout, “I’ve been robbed!” They are justifiably upset, and they have been victimized Legally, however, they’re incorrect.

There is a difference between a robbery and a burglary. Robbery does not necessarily involve breaking into someone’s home, and burglary does not necessarily involve stealing something. In this article, we will dissect the separate charges, explaining exactly what each crime is.


Burglary is not the same as trespassing. Trespassing is simply the act of illegally entering property. Burglary is the act of illegally entering property to commit a crime. The burglar could be there to vandalize, commit arson, steal, and so on.

In Tennessee, the burglar doesn’t have to completely enter the property to be charged. If any part of their body crosses the property line, they can be accused. Furthermore, if they are holding an object, and that object crossed the line, they can be convicted of burglary.

Types of Burglary

In our state, there are three separate categories for burglary. Standard burglary involves entering a commercial or public area to commit a crime.

Tennessee also makes a distinction between burglary of a “habitation” and burglary of any other property. Habitation has a broad definition in the state. It can be someone’s home, but it also includes RV’s, tents, and so on. Burglary of a habitation is charged far more harshly than that of a business, government building, etc. This is called aggravated burglary.

If someone enters a habitat and seriously injures the occupant, the crime becomes “especially aggravated burglary.”

Burglary Penalties

Standard burglary, not involving a habitation, is either a Class E or Class D felony, depending on the circumstances. Jail or prison time lasts between 1 and 12 years, and fines can range from $3,000 to $5,000.

Aggravated burglary, which involves entering a habitation, is a Class C felony. Incarceration ranges between 3 and 15 years, and fines can go as high as $10,000.

Especially aggravated burglary, where a habitation occupant is severely hurt, is a Class B felony, and its penalties are steep. A convict can serve between 8 and 30 years, and they can be charged fines up to $25,000.


Robbery is a form of theft. It is not, however, the same as breaking into someone’s home or shoplifting. Robbery specifically involves taking something by force.

Types of Robbery

Like burglary, Tennessee places robbery into three separate categories. Standard robbery can involve taking someone directly from someone, such as a purse snatcher would. It may include strongarming someone, which means you use your physical presence to intimidate someone into giving you their belongings. Imagine a bodybuilder asking a 90-lb. woman to give him her watch, for example.

Aggravated robbery involves the use of a weapon, such as a knife or a gun. In fact, just the threat of a weapon qualifies. If a robber told their victim they had a gun, that counts. Maybe they pointed their finger into their jacket pocket, pretending to have a gun. This would also be classifiable as aggravated robbery.

“Especially aggravated robbery” involves both the use of a weapon and the serious bodily harm of the victim.

Robbery Penalties

Tennessee’s tiered system works for robbery charges much as it does for burglary.

In a standard robbery, the accused is charged with a Class C felony. They face between 3 and 15 years of incarceration.

Aggravated robbery is a Class B felony. Those found guilty can be locked up between 8 and 30 years.

Especially aggravated robbery is a Class A felony, the most severe form of crime in the state. Convicts face 15 to 60 years in prison.

Seeking a Defense

If you’ve been charged with either robbery or burglary, you are entitled to a defense. No matter how severe or minor a crime, our Constitution grants everyone the right to legal counsel. Furthermore, all accused criminals are innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution, and that burden is strong. They must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

No matter what the charge or the evidence, there is room for doubt. Intent is a big part of any successful prosecution. Even when the evidence is strong, you can argue that intent was not present. For example, you could have been coerced into committing the crime by someone else. This is just a small example, but there are many ways to craft a credible defense in court.

Don’t blindly accept robbery or burglary charges. If you’ve been arrested for either crime, contact us today for a free consultation. We may be able to take on your case and begin crafting a defense for you. Our number is (731) 256-0023, and you can contact us online.