Burglary, Robbery, Or Larceny? A Short Guide To Theft Crimes
There are many different categories of theft crimes. To the average citizen, many of the legal terms used to define these crimes seem like they overlap or describe the same behaviors. However, each term has its own distinct definition and potential punishment guidelines. Here is a short guide to the different types of theft crimes in criminal law and the consequences if someone is convicted.
Although each jurisdiction may have different types of larceny, the basic elements of this theft crime remain largely the same. Larceny is defined as the unlawful taking of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of it. States may specify a type of larceny/theft through subtle variations, such as place or type of good stolen. For example, stealing something from a store can be called shoplifting and stealing a vehicle could be termed grand theft auto. Punishment for these crimes depends on the state, the severity of the charge, and the value of the items taken. Smaller, less expensive items might warrant only a misdemeanor or disorderly conduct charge and a fine. Bigger, more expensive items could lead to time in prison.
A robbery charge involves all the elements of larceny, but with the added factor of violence. Taking property through the use of force, threats of harm, or intimidation is what sets a robbery apart from a simple theft. Robberies also often include use or brandishing of a weapon such as a gun. Because of these things, robbery is considered to be a more serious crime than larceny, so possible punishment is often much harsher for the convicted defendant, and often involves prison time.
The distinguishing factor in a burglary charge is where the crime takes place. It is defined as breaking and entering into the property of another to commit a larceny or other crime inside. These can be homes, businesses, and other buildings or property that does not belong to the perpetrator. The entry must be unlawful for a burglary charge to apply, so as to separate it from a shoplifting charge.
As technology becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, thieves are finding ways to steal from others in less direct ways. Identity theft involves the unlawful taking of another person’s information such as their bank account, social security number, credit card details, or any other identifying facts for their own gain, usually financial. Identity thieves can destroy a person’s credit and drain their financial resources, and this can have a much more lasting impact on the victim than other types of theft. More people fall prey to these savvy cons every year, so both state and federal law has evolved to punish the offenders. This often includes heavy fines, but in some cases also involves prison time.
Although it may not be the first word that springs to mind when you think of theft crimes, fraud is one of the oldest types. Instead of the use of force or direct physical removal, fraud is taking through the use of deception (also called false pretenses). Fraud often comes up in the context of white collar crimes. For example, when an employee who is entrusted to protect financial assets for the business takes some for themselves, this is a type of fraud known as embezzlement. Like identity theft, the nature of these offenses often leaves a deep and long-lasting negative impact on the victim.
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