Stealing, Robbery, Burglary: What is the difference?

I am sure you have seen the headlines that appear in the news every few days about a store being robbed, cars being stolen, or homes being broken into. Whilst these offences may overlap or share some common characteristics, stealing, robbery and burglary are different offences under the Queensland Criminal Code. This article explains the basic laws of each offence and their associated penalties.

STEALING – s 391

Definition:

  1. “A person who fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the person’s own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen, is said to steal that thing.
  2. A person who takes or converts anything capable of being stolen is deemed to do so fraudulently if the person does so with any of the following intents, that is to say

a. an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing of it;

b. an intent to permanently deprive any person who has any special property in the thing of such property;

c. an intent to use the thing as a pledge or security;

d. an intent to part with it on a condition as to its return which the person taking or converting it may be unable to perform;

e. an intent to deal with it in such a manner that it can not be returned in the condition in which it was at the time of the taking or conversion;

f. in the case of money—an intent to use it at the will of the person who takes or converts it, although the person may intend to afterwards repay the amount to the owner.”

It is important to note that the act of stealing is not complete until the person taking or converting the thing actually moves it or otherwise actually deals with it by some physical act (s 391(6)).

Court: Stealing is dealt with in the Magistrates Court or the District Court depending on the value of the property stolen. If the value is $5,000 or more, the offence will be before the District Court.

Maximum Penalty: The maximum penalty for the offence of stealing is 5 years imprisonment where there are no circumstances of aggravation. Where there are circumstances of aggravation, such as stealing a will or stealing done by a director of a company, the maximum penalty may be between 10 to 14 years imprisonment (see s 398).

ROBBERY – s 409

Definition:Any person who steals anything, and, at or immediately before or immediately after the time of stealing it, uses or threatens to use actual violence to any person or property in order to obtain the thing stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to its being stolen, is said to be guilty of robbery.”

Court: The offence of robbery is a serious offence and will generally progress through the Magistrates Court before being committed for trial or sentence in the District Court.

Maximum Penalty: The maximum penalty for the offence of robbery is 14 years imprisonment where there are no circumstances of aggravation. Where aggravating circumstances exist, the maximum penalty increases to life imprisonment (s 411).

Aggravating circumstances: There are 3 circumstances that will aggravate an offence of robbery under s 411 of the Criminal Code. If the offender:

  1. is or pretends to be armed with any dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument;
  2. is in company with 1 or more other persons; and/or
  3. immediately before or after the robbery, wounds or uses any other personal violence to any person.

Note: attempted robbery is also an offence under s 412 of the Criminal Code.

BURGLARY – s 419

Definition: Any person who enters or is in the dwelling of another with intent to commit an indictable offence in the dwelling commits a crime”

According to the definitions under s 418(2) of the Criminal Code, a person is said to enter a dwelling as soon as any part of the person’s body or any part of any instrument used by the person is within the dwelling or premises.

It is important to not confuse burglary with break and entering offences. Burglary specifically relates buildings, structures etc. that are used for residential purposes (a dwelling). Break and entering offences relate to any premises other than a dwelling.

Court: Burglary offences are dealt with either in the Magistrates Court or District Court depending on the seriousness of the circumstances and whether there are any other charges connected to the burglary.

Maximum Penalty: The offence of burglary is also a serious offence and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment (s 419(1)). However, where there are circumstances of aggravation or where an indictable offence is committed in the dwelling, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life.

Aggravating circumstances: Section 419(2)-(5) of the Criminal Code outlines the circumstances of aggravation that increase the maximum penalty.

1. the offence is committed in the night

2. the offender—

(i) uses or threatens to use actual violence; or

(ii) is or pretends to be armed with a dangerous or offensive weapon, instrument or noxious substance; or

(iii) is in company with 1 or more persons; or

(iv) damages, or threatens or attempts to damage, any property.

3. the offender enters or is in the dwelling of another and commits an indictable offence in the dwelling

4. If the offender enters the dwelling by means of any break

(a) where break means breaking any part, whether external or internal, of a dwelling or any premises, or opens, by unlocking, pulling, pushing, lifting, or any other means whatever, any door, window, shutter, cellar, flap, or other thing, intended to close or cover an opening in a dwelling or any premises, or an opening giving passage from one part of a dwelling or any premises to another.

(b) Break also includes obtaining entrance into a dwelling or premises by means of any threat or artifice used for that purpose, or by collusion with any person in the dwelling or premises, or who enters any chimney or other aperture of the dwelling or premises permanently left open for any necessary purpose, but not intended to be ordinarily used as a means of entrance (see s 418).

How we can help you?

Being charged for an offence can be a daunting ordeal. Our team of experienced criminal lawyers are here to help you. We offer our services for matters across the whole spectrum of Criminal Law, from small traffic matters to serious criminal charges.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with an offence, it is imperative that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible. To speak to one of our Criminal Lawyers, please contact us on (07) 3252 0011 and book an appointment.

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