It is difficult enough to be arrested and charged with a crime, but the stress is even worse if you do not understand what the charges are. There are times when police and attorneys use legal terms that make no sense to someone who has been detained or that sound like the same thing. Is there really a difference, or are authorities just trying to intimidate you?
With theft, robbery and burglary, there are differences in the definitions of each crime as well as differences in the penalties for each.
Robbery looks a lot like theft (described in our last post), but it always includes force or the threat of force. The use of or the threat to use a deadly weapon increases the charge to aggravated robbery. The important thing to remember here is that the law considers telling someone you have a gun to be the same thing as actually having a gun (or other dangerous weapon, like a knife, ax, bludgeon and so on).
Sentencing depends on the age of the victim. Robbing a vulnerable adult or committing the crime in a school or day care facility is a Class 1 felony, as is aggravated robbery. A conviction could mean up to 15 years in prison. If there are no special circumstances, robbery is a Class 2 felony, with a maximum seven-year sentence.
You can be charged with burglary if you enter someone's premises without permission in order to commit a felony or a theft. The premises may be a house, a car, a boat -- even an airplane or railroad car. Remaining in that place without permission is also considered burglary.
So, let's say you are told to leave a hardware store but instead hide until after the store is closed. If you intend to steal something or to assault the night guard, you may be charged with burglary.
Burglary is generally a Class 2 felony. However, the same extenuating circumstances that will increase robbery to aggravated robbery -- that is, the burglary takes place in school or day care facility, whether public or private -- and make it a Class 1 felony.
This is a broad overview of the law. Please, if you have questions about your own situation, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Sources: West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, Chapter 720 Criminal Offenses, §§ 5/19-1 and 5/18-1, via Illinois Compiled Statutes at ILGA.gov