Stealing, Burglary, and Robbery — What’s The Difference?

It’s common for people to interchangeably use the terms stealing, burglary, and robbery.

Although each charge often involves the unauthorized appropriation of another person’s property, they are distinct offenses with different definitions and penalties in Missouri.

For example, you might hear someone say, “My house was robbed!”

In legal terms, this usually translates to, “My house was burglarized!”

These two statements may sound synonymous, but in the eyes of a judge, it could mean the difference between a few years in jail… or a lifetime.

So, stealing, burglary, and robbery. What’s the difference?

In short:

  • Things are stolen.
  • Places are burglarized.
  • People are robbed.

Stealing Crimes

Stealing is the unauthorized appropriation of the personal property of another for the purpose of permanently depriving the owner thereof. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you… with no intention of returning it.

Money, credit cards, firearms, vehicles, controlled substances—regardless of the type of property, you can be charged for stealing.

Stealing crimes do not necessarily involve physically taking property from another person (robbery) or unauthorized entry onto a person’s property to commit a crime (burglary).

In fact, most stealing crimes do NOT involve robberies and burglaries. Shoplifting, for example, is the most common type of stealing crime, which usually involves neither a robbery nor a burglary.

That’s why, in Missouri, stealing is typically a misdemeanor, whereas robbery and burglary are always felonies. Stealing can, however, constitute a felony if additional circumstances can be proven.

Suppose it is determined that the amount stolen was $750 or more of the item stolen constituted “special property” like a firearm, credit card, or vehicle. In that case, it will be charged as a felony. (Even without the presence of burglary or robbery)

Burglary Crimes

Burglary is the unauthorized entry upon the premises of another for the purpose of committing a crime. It’s like trespassing but with additional criminal intentions.

The intended crime does NOT have to be stealing. We see cases where the intended crime is assault, domestic assault, kidnapping, or murder, but it can be almost any crime.

The burglary can be upgraded to a higher-class felony if a participant:

  • Was armed with a deadly weapon
  • Caused or threatened immediate physical injury to another person
  • There was another person present in the structure that was not a participant in the crime

Burglary is ALWAYS considered a felony in Missouri, unlike most stealing crimes that are considered a misdemeanor.

Robbery Crimes

Robbery involves taking property from a person with the added use of force or threatened force. Examples of force might include:

  • Physically injuring another person
  • Armed with a deadly weapon
  • Using or threatening the immediate use of a dangerous instrument against any person
  • Displaying or threatening to use what appears to be a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • Stealing any controlled substance from a pharmacy

The colloquial term for robbery is “mugging” because of the threatened or actual use of force, for example, an armed robbery. Robbery is always treated much more seriously in court.

In Missouri, a robbery in the 1st degree is considered a “dangerous felony,” which means that a person convicted of the offense must serve at least 85% of their sentence before being eligible for parole.

What Are the Penalties for Stealing, Burglary, and Robbery?

In addition to the types of charges, there are varying degrees, which could significantly affect a case’s outcome. A misdemeanor is punishable by small fines and up to a year in jail. At the same time, a felony charge can land you in prison for up to 30 years with a limited chance for parole, depending on the circumstances.

Any person convicted of offenses that are considered a “dangerous felony” must serve at least 85% of their prison sentence before being eligible for parole.

This is where those “additional circumstances” are so important:

  • Were there any victims harmed or threatened while the crime took place?
  • Were any deadly weapons, dangerous instruments, or explosives used or threatened?
  • Were there controlled substances present?
  • Did any other crimes take place?

These factors will affect how a charge is classified and penalized.

Stealing Penalties


Stealing $150 or more or a subsequent offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and fines of up to $2,000.


Stealing $750 or more is considered a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.


Stealing $25,000 or more is considered a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000


Stealing certain special property could result in the stealing charges being elevated to a Class D felony.

Some of the most common include:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Credit or debit cards
  • Firearms
  • Livestock
  • Controlled substances
  • Methamphetamine precursors

Burglary Penalties

Burglary involves entering a building with the intention of committing a crime. Residential burglary specifically pertains to a home. Burglary charges can range in the following degrees:


First-degree burglary is considered a Class B felony punishable by a minimum of five to a maximum of 15 years in prison.


Second-degree burglary is considered a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Robbery Penalties


First-degree robbery is considered a Class A felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, or life imprisonment. This is classified as a “dangerous felony,” so at least 85% of the prison sentence must be served to be eligible for parole.


Robbery in the second degree is considered a Class B felony punishable by a minimum of five years to a maximum of 15 years in prison.

If any of these offenses apply to you, speak to a criminal defense attorney at Rose Legal Services for representation.

Do You Need A Criminal Defense Attorney?

If you’re facing charges for stealing, burglary, robbery, or any other violent crime, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. Even a small stealing charge can result in jail time and fines, not to mention a criminal record.

These charges have repercussions that can be detrimental to your future. You can be held back in your career, kept from loved ones, miss out on your dream home, and ultimately struggle to live the life you want for yourself.

You deserve a proper defense. If you’ve been convicted or fear a conviction may come, start planning your defense with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Contact us right away for a free consultation. Find us at 3870 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Suite 130, St. Louis, MO 63127 or 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place, Suite 111 O’Fallon, MO 63368.

Author Bio

Scott Rose, an experienced criminal defense lawyer and founder of Rose Legal Services, has been practicing law for over 20 years. He is dedicated to representing clients facing criminal charges and providing legal representation on various cases, including DWI, misdemeanor, and felony cases.

After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, he gained valuable experience working for a United States Senator and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Chief Judge of a United States District Court. Throughout his legal career, W. Scott Rose has committed to providing high-quality legal representation to his clients, earning him a spot in the National Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

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