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Theft, Burglary, Robbery: What's the Difference?

Newspaper stories on crime are filled with legal terms like theft, burglary, and robbery. But not a lot of stories explain how each of these crimes differ.

These offenses all fall under the idea of stealing, but property crimes are about more than that. Any time property is taken or destroyed, there's a criminal charge that could apply to the person who is arrested.

The difference between the charges is important because it affects how serious the sentence for each crime can be. So, what is the difference?

Classifying Property Crimes by Danger

One way the law separates crimes involving stealing is based on potential harm. Danger posed to the victim increases the seriousness of the potential punishment:

The Value of the Stolen Items

The other way property crimes are defined is by the value of the goods taken. The more valuable the property that was stolen, the greater the potential punishment.

Arizona divides theft into two categories, a misdemeanor and a felony.

The misdemeanor offense involves stealing property valued under $1,000. But those who steal property valued at $1,000 or more will be charged with a felony. That has serious implications for a criminal record.

Other Property Crimes

Besides crimes of stealing, which involve the taking of someone's property, there are other crimes that can be committed against property.

Vandalism and destroying someone's property are property crimes, even though the property wasn't taken. Dishonesty such as embezzlement is also a crime against property.

When you read in the news that things were stolen, knowing what the crime means may make the story more interesting. If nothing else, you'll know what awaits the suspect if he's convicted.

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