A Sydney Criminal Lawyer Explains: The Difference between Stealing, Robbery & Burglary

On 27 May, two men in Sydney took money from a wheelchair-bound man who had just withdrawn cash from an ATM. So, was this attack an example of stealing, robbery or was it a burglary?

What is Robbery in NSW?

Robbery involves using fear or force to take something from someone.

To rob someone, you need to take something away from them (without their consent) while they are present. You must use either force or fear to take the object.  

Some examples of force or fear are:

  • Threatening to punch someone if they don’t give you their watch
  • Shoving someone and taking their phone
  • Pretending to have a weapon when you ask someone for their wallet (though, in some cases, this might be considered an armed robbery).

Is Robbery Different to Stealing?

Robbery is different to stealing. 

Both robbery and stealing involve taking someone’s property or money without their permission, but robbery involves using force or threatening the person

Stealing is simply taking someone’s property without their permission and having no intention to return it. 

Are armed robbery and aggravated robbery the same thing? 

A robbery is considered to be an ‘aggravated robbery’ when a weapon is used or when the person who is robbed suffers severe injuries (remember, it’s a robbery if you use force!). 

So, armed robbery is a type of aggravated robbery. But, a robbery can be considered ‘aggravated’ without any weapons if the injuries caused are severe.   

Is robbery a property crime?

Because robbery involves both taking property and using force or the threat of force, it is a property offence and a violent offence against a person. 

This is important because crimes against people are usually considered more serious by the courts. Which means you might be given a harsher sentence (or a longer jail period).

Having an experienced criminal lawyer on your side will help you put your best case to the court. This gives you the best chance to reduce your punishment (or get off altogether, if we can mount a defence on your behalf!)

Book your free consultation here. 

Are Robbery and Burglary the same?

The main difference between robbery and burglary is that burglary can only take place inside a building. You can be robbed anywhere.

Another interesting difference is that you don’t actually have to take anything from inside the house or business to be found guilty of burglary. If you trespassed on someone’s property while intending to commit one of several crimes, you might be charged with burglary.

These crimes are: 

  • Stealing
  • Criminal damage
  • Other property offences
  • Other violent offences 

An example is when a burglar enters an empty house and steals jewellery. This is a burglary, not a robbery, because the victim wasn’t present at the time (so there was no fear or force against a person). 


Is robbery or burglary worse?

You can be sentenced to prison for both robbery and burglary. Robbery is sometimes considered to be worse because it is a crime against another person, not a building. 

That said, you can be charged with aggravated burglary if you burgle a house while people are home. So, aggravated burglary is usually considered to be a more serious crime than burglary. 

Get Legal Help from Experienced Criminal Lawyers

If you’ve been charged with burglary, robbery, stealing, theft, or any other criminal offence, we’re here to help! 

We’re experienced criminal lawyers who work hard to put the law on your side. 

Your first consultation with us and your case analysis are completely free of charge. And we’ll discuss our fees openly with you – so you only pay what you can afford and you won’t pay for anything you don’t need. 

Oh – and the Sydney ATM attack mentioned at the beginning of this article was a robbery (you can read the full story here). It involved the perpetrators taking money from the victim by exerting force against him. Because it did not take place in the man’s home, it is not a burglary.

Aziz and the Altria Team