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Robbery or Burglary? Understand The Difference, Degrees & Potential Sentences For Each

Robbery vs Burglary - Difference, Degrees and Potential Sentences

In popular culture, robbery and burglary are used interchangeably. Legally, however, they are very different things.


Under South Carolina Law, Burglary is defined as entering a dwelling or a building without consent, with the intent to commit a crime therein (§16-11-311, §16-11-312, §16-11-313).

Some people think that if a person enters your home and takes your stuff, it’s a robbery. It’s not! That is a burglary. Although you can rob an individual while committing a burglary, the minute you enter a building with the intent to commit a crime, even a misdemeanor, it’s a burglary.

Entering any building that does not belong to you with the intent to commit a crime inside is a burglary: a home, a hotel room, a storage unit, a storage shed, a beach house, and a garage all count as burglary.

Furthermore, you don’t tecnhically have to break in for the crime to be committed. If a door or window is unlocked or if you have a key but have not been given permission to enter, the moment you go into the building, you have still committed a burglary.

Degrees of Burglary

Burglary 1st Degree is the most serious. It carries a potential sentence of 15 years to life in prison. To qualify as a 1st degree Burglary, one or more of the following aggravating factors must be present:

  1. Entering into a home at night (night defined as during the hours it is dark outside)

  2. The burglar is armed or becomes armed during the burglary

  3. During the course of the Burglary, a non-participant in the crime is injured

  4. A person has prior record of two or more convictions for burglary or housebreaking or a combination of both

Burglary 2nd Degree has two subsections: violent and non-violent.

  • Burglary 2nd degree violent is entering into a business at night, or entering a building without consent during the daytime hours while armed or becoming armed, causing injury to a non-participant in the crime, threatening use of a weapon, or having a prior record of two or more prior burglaries. It potentially carries up to 15 years in prison, and is classified as a violent offense.

  • Burglary 2nd degree non-violent is entering into a dwelling during the daytime hours. It carries up to 10 years in prison.

Burglary 3rd Degree is entering any building without consent and with intent to commit a crime in absence of aggravation. It carries up to 5 years in prison for a first offense, and up to 10 years in prison for a second offense.

Now that we have a better understanding of burglary, let's move on to defining robbery.


The key difference between burglary and robbery is that burglary is an offense against the property, and robbery is an offense against the person. All robberies require that items be taken from the person in person.

As there are different degrees of burglary, there are also different types of robbery.

Common Law/Strong-Armed Robbery

Common law robbery is often defined as the taking of another’s property through the use of force or intimidation. This does not involve a deadly weapon. This most often involves a struggle between the victim and the robber in the midst of attempting to deprive the victim of their property.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is the taking of the property of another with intent to deprive them of possession while armed with a deadly weapon or while having possession of an object which the victim reasonably believed to be a deadly weapon. It carries 10 to 30 years in prison and is classified as a violent offense.

If you are charged with any kind of burglary or robbery offense, it is critical that you retain an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer. Burglary and robbery are some of the most serious cases in South Carolina that may not only mean a hefty prison sentence, but also a violent strike against your record.


At Erin Bailey Law, we stand ready with the kind of experience you need to fight these charges. Learn more about our practice areas and criminal defense lawyers, or get in touch with the Erin Bailey Law team today.

This post is offered for general information only and is not legal advice. Our lawyers must make a case-by-case assessment of any claims. Results may vary depending on the facts involving any case.

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