231 Law

The difference between theft, burglary, and robbery in Massachusetts

In the criminal justice world, the terms burglary, theft, and robbery mean different things and carry different penalties, depending on the crime you are charged with. Here is how to differentiate the three in Massachusetts:


According to Massachusetts criminal law, you are committing larceny or theft if you acquire property without the owner’s authorization; if you acquire property through threat or deceit; or if you consciously handle stolen property. The defendant must have, however, had the intent to permanently take the property from the owner for it to be considered a theft. This means that if your neighbor had a go on your bike without your consent and later returned it, the act will not be considered a theft.

Consider hiring a property crimes lawyer to review your theft case and help you understand your charges before the trial begins. If you are the victim, ensure you have an attorney by your side right from the beginning to ensure you present a strong case before the jury.

Theft crimes carry a vast spectrum of penalties and sentencing is largely dependent on the manner of the theft and the value of the stolen property. If the value of the property is less than $250 and was not stolen directly from another person, you will likely face a Class A misdemeanor charge. If the property was directly stolen from another person, the theft is considered a Class 3 felony.


Robbery occurs when someone uses threat or force to take someone else’s property. Aggravated robbery, on the other hand, is when the robber indicates to the person they are stealing from that they have a dangerous weapon such as a firearm with them, whether or not they eventually use it.

The potential punishments for robberies are significantly more severe than thefts and burglaries. This is partly because robberies, unlike larcenies and burglaries, are considered crimes against a person and not property. A person charged with robbery in Massachusetts faces a penalty of between one year and life in prison, depending on factors such as weapon use, age of the victim, and if the robber was wearing a mask.


A burglary can be defined as the unlawful entry into a structure at night with the intent to commit a crime. Contrary to popular belief, burglary isn’t always connected with theft. You can break into a house to steal a property or commit a felony such as murder or rape.

Note that you don’t need to have committed the intended crime to be charged with burglary. Also, it doesn’t matter if you entered the house by breaking in or casually walking through an open door. The prosecutors only need to prove you had a weapon or intended to commit a crime for a conviction to happen.


If you are facing property crime charges, hiring a lawyer to represent you in court is the best decision you can make. Specialist attorneys are familiar with Massachusetts court procedures and may be able to project possible outcomes by just looking at the allegations and evidence you are facing.