27 Nov 23

The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm

The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery in New Jersey

If your wondering about the legal difference between burglary and robbery charges in New Jersey, your not alone. Lots of people get this confused, even lawyers! The good news is I can break it down nice and simple here so you understand exactly what each crime is about.

First, lets define our terms. Burglary refers to illegally entering a structure like someones home, business, or other building with the intention to commit a crime inside (even if you end up not doing it). Robbery is when you use force or threats to steal property directly from another person (like demanding money from a bank teller).

So in short:

  • Burglary – illegally entering a structure to commit a crime
  • Robbery – using threats/force to steal from a person

Seem pretty straightforward right? Well in legal terms there’s alot more nuance and technicalities to be aware of. Stick with me while I break down some key differences between these two offenses according to New Jersey criminal statutes.

Timing of the Crimes

A big distinction is when the criminal intent forms versus when property is actually stolen.

For burglary, the intention to commit a crime happens when unlawfully entering the structure itself. Whether anything gets damaged or stolen isn’t as relevant. Simply stepping foot in someone’s home or business without permission and with plans to commit a theft inside meets the criteria for a burglary charge in NJ.

With robbery, the theft of property has to occur while using or threatening force against the victim. So unlike burglary, a successful robbery means something was actually taken by force or fear – not just intended.

Location of the Crimes

Burglaries by definition must occur inside some kind of enclosed structure or conveyance. This includes things like homes, offices, cars, trucks, vans, and so on. Anywhere with clear boundaries that require a person to enter or exit.

Robberies on the other hand usually happen out in the open when confronting a victim face-to-face. Think bank robberies, muggings, carjackings, etc. Really any public space works.

So in summary:

  • Burglaries – inside structures
  • Robberies – outdoors/public spaces

There are exceptions of course, but generally the location correlates to the type of charges filed.

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Use of Threats or Weapons

Most robberies involve threats, weapons, or physical harm to steal property directly from a victim. The perpetrator might use a weapon like a gun or knife, grab someones purse, demand access to a cash register, or assault someone to take their wallet. Either way, violence and intimidation are hallmarks of nearly any robbery.

Burglaries can be accomplished completely undetected without necessarily terrorizing anyone face-to-face. A burglar might sneak in a back door and quietly rummage through drawers looking for valuables while a family sleeps. Or hack someone’s smart home system to disable alarms and unlock doors remotely. As long as the intention is to commit a crime inside the structure, it likely qualifies as a burglary charge in New Jersey.

So in short:

  • Robberies – violence/threats to steal property
  • Burglaries – stealth/deception to illegally enter and commit crime

See the difference? Robberies get up close and personal, burglaries try not to disturb or hurt anyone.

Degrees of Charges

New Jersey categorizes both burglary and robbery into varying degrees of seriousness depending on circumstances like:

  • If weapons were involved
  • If anyone was injured
  • Value of property damaged/stolen
  • Other risk factors

For example, an armed home invasion at night where residents are assaulted would lead to first degree burglary charges. But sneaking into someones backyard shed to steal a rake may only qualify as third or fourth degree charges.

Similarly, punching someone and grabbing their wallet could be basic third degree robbery. But carjacking a vehicle at gunpoint would escalate charges to first degree status.

So the exact degree and penalties really depend on all the specifics of an incident. But in general, burglaries and robberies share comparable charge levels based on severity.

Defenses Against Charges

There are a variety of legal defenses that skilled criminal lawyers may use to fight burglary or robbery allegations in New Jersey. Common strategies include:

  • Misidentification – arguing prosecutors charged the wrong person due to ambiguous or contradictory witness descriptions. Eyewitnesses do make mistakes sometimes!
  • Intoxication – demonstrating a defendant was too impaired to form the necessary criminal intent required to prove guilt. Being drunk or high could negate or reduce culpability.
  • Self defense – justifying the use of force to protect oneself against an imminent attack rather than an intentional robbery. Details matter when claiming self defense.
  • Consent – proving a supposed victim actually permitted the taking of property, which wouldn’t qualify as theft. For example, borrowing a friends car with permission means no carjacking occurred.
  • Alibi – providing evidence a defendant was somewhere far away from the crime scene when it occurred, so they couldn’t possibly be the perpetrator. Credit card receipts, cell phone records, eyewitnesses placing someone elsewhere all help establish a solid alibi.
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And much more. Skilled lawyers dig into the specifics of each unique case to develop custom defense strategies. No two cases are ever quite the same.

So while the legal definitions of burglary vs. robbery might seem clear at first glance, applying them to real-world scenarios gets more complicated. Lots of exceptions, technicalities, and mitigating factors come into play. Having an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in these situations.

They understand how prosecutors tend to handle charging decisions for crimes like these throughout the state. And what persuasive legal arguments might lead to reduced charges, alternate sentencing options, or even complete dismissals in some instances.

Every case has hope, no matter how challenging at first. So reach out for a free consultation if you or someone you love gets accused of burglary, robbery, or any other criminal offenses in New Jersey. The justice system allows room for second chances when you have the right guide on your side.