What’s the Difference Between Larceny and Burglary?

One of the most confusing aspects of crime for those who don’t deal with the law often is understanding the difference between common crimes, especially crimes involving property. Whether you’ve witnessed a crime, or have had a crime happen to you, it’s important to know the differences so that you can understand the strategy your lawyer may recommend for your situation. Let’s tackle one of the biggest misconceptions: that theft/larceny and burglary are the same crime.

Larceny involves unlawfully removing possessions from another person. Depending on your state, this may be the same as “theft” or may be a separate criminal offense. If you’ve removed property from another individual without their permission, you can be charged with the crime of larceny. However, if the accused removes the property by force or threat of force, they’ve moved from larceny to robbery. Larceny can also range in degree of severity based on the value of the property stolen. Petit larceny is usually charged for any property that is under $1000. Grand larceny is for property that is valued over $1000 and will vary in level of degree based on how much the total stolen property is worth, with Third Degree to be the smallest, and First Degree the largest. The higher the degree of grand larceny, the greater the convicted can expect the sentence to be.

The act of burglary is more encompassing, as it involves only the unlawful entry of a dwelling or structure. So in theory, trespassing could also be seen as an act of burglary by the accused, especially since you do not need to actually take anything. With burglary, the accused can be arrested even if they entered via a standard door or entrance. It’s simply the act of unlawful entry. Like larceny, burglary also has different degrees depending on severity. If the accused simply enters the dwelling unlawfully, they may be charged with Third Degree Burglary. If, however, the accused enters with weapons and intent to commit a crime, they may be charged with Second or Third Degree Burglary. Committing theft or larceny does not need to happen for someone to be charged with burglary.

While burglary and larceny can be committed at the same time, they can also be committed separately. Burglary can be committed without the removal of property, and larceny can be committed without unlawful entry. Understanding the differences between the two can help protect you and your property from crime, but if you’re unsure whether or not one of these applies to you, contact your lawyer for clarification on your specific case.

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