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While burglary, robbery, and theft all involve unlawfully taking property or money, Florida law treats these crimes quite differently in terms of their legal definitions and punishments. Confusing these terms can lead to serious misunderstandings about the charges against you, potential consequences you may face, and the defense strategies available to you. 

Theft/Larceny Definition and Penalties

Theft, or larceny, is the illegal taking of money or property from its rightful owner with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. No force, violence, or trespassing element needs to exist.

In Florida, misdemeanor petit theft involves stolen goods or cash valued under $750. Punishment, which depends on the value of the items stolen and whether the perpetrator has any prior convictions, starts at a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Theft of items valued at $750 or more or of at least $100 when taken from a home escalates to felony grand theft charges. Penalties vary greatly depending on the value of the items stolen and the means by which they were taken. The least serious form of grand theft is a third-degree felony carrying a fine of not more than $5,000 and a prison sentence of not more than five years.

Robbery Definition and Penalties    

The legal definition of robbery goes beyond mere theft, specifying that property gets taken directly from another person through the use of force, violence, assault, or putting that person in fear. Robbery involves stealing using confrontation rather than stealth.

Robbery charges start at the felony level, with maximum prison sentences starting at 15 years and going up to life when deadly weapons are involved.

Burglary Definition and Penalties

Florida separates burglary offenses into degrees based on factors like:

  • Whether the premises were occupied 
  • If any assault/battery occurred 
  • Whether the offender remained inside after being discovered 
  • Whether the offender used any destructive devices

Burglary into an unoccupied structure counts as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and $5,000 fines. More severe burglary circumstances enhance charges up to a first-degree felony, punishable by life in prison, especially when integrating assault/battery offenses or occupied dwellings.

While burglary offenses don’t require theft to actually occur, strong penalties apply due to the violation of premises trespass and criminal intent involved.

Additional Penalties For Theft, Robbery, and Burglary

Beyond the statutory criminal punishments of fines and incarceration sentences, theft-related convictions bring a variety of collateral consequences, including: 

  • Permanent criminal records blocking eligibility for professional licenses, certain jobs, and government assistance programs
  • Immigration/deportation risks for non-citizens
  • Difficulty securing loans, housing, and higher education opportunities
  • Effective revocation of civil rights

Even seemingly minor theft charges can result in long-lasting hardships without skilled legal representation. Building a sound defense strategy is critical for avoiding these outcomes whenever possible.

Why Legal Definitions Matter

While all burglary, robbery, and theft all involve the unlawful taking of property, they are legally distinct charges that carry different penalties based on specific definitions, elements, and circumstances. 

Prosecutors carefully review facts to identify the most applicable charges, often with an eye to securing the most severe punishment. For example, a robbery occurring during the commission of a burglary qualifies as an armed robbery involving harsher sentences. These nuances drastically impact potential plea negotiations, defenses, and trial strategies for any given case.

Without a thorough understanding of the differences between burglary, robbery, and theft, defendants cannot effectively protect their rights or make informed decisions on legal options. An experienced criminal defense lawyer analyzes critical details, ensuring charges align with actual criminal conduct committed while developing tailored defense arguments.

Defense Representation for Theft Crimes in Bay County  

If you face charges for burglary, robbery, theft, or related property crimes in Panama City, Panama City Beach, or surrounding Bay County areas, contact The Sombathy Law Firm immediately. Our veteran criminal defense attorneys provide aggressive representation in contesting allegations, from misdemeanors to serious felonies, and we’re ready to put our six decades of combined legal experience to work on your case.