You’ve heard all these words before, and general public knowledge lumps them all into one category — theft. However, did you know that there are pretty significant differences between the three? Here are the facts about the various types of stealing:


As any criminal law firm in Columbia MD may tell you, larceny is the most basic crime and considered to be “common theft.” Some states use the term interchangeably with general theft, and in others, it can be a separate charge from other forms of stealing like robbery. Larceny includes the following four elements:

  • Unlawful taking and carrying away of property
  • The property belongs to someone else
  • The owner did not give consent
  • No intention to return the property

Once these are proven, you have a case for larceny.


The theory of embezzlement was developed because the legal definitions of most kinds of stealing included an unauthorized entry or trespass. So, how could the law define a theft committed by a person who belongs in a building or entity, like an employee? The primary component of embezzlement is that the property is used or taken without authorization. Such an example could be a worker who steals money from a cash register that he or she is allowed to use for ringing up customers.


Robbery is theft by threats or acts of violence. While the thief doesn’t have to use an excessive amount of force, there is a minimum standard. For example, if someone grabs another person’s cell phone on the street and runs off, it will probably not be considered a robbery unless the victim attempts to resist or fight back.

It also matters when the force was used. If a thief steals a watch from a store with no notice but then knocks a person down on the sidewalk while escaping, the theft may not be considered robbery.


Burglary is actually not stealing at all. While theft may be an element of burglary, the exact definition is solely the unlawful entry into a building in order to commit a crime. The intended illegal activity could be almost anything from stealing, causing someone harm or starting a fire. Even if the intended crime doesn’t actually occur, a person could be charged with burglary.

Some of these crimes can be combined, like burglary and robbery or robbery and theft. Additionally, there are different degrees of charges, such as aggravated robbery or grand larceny. These elevated charges usually depend on how the crime was committed and how much was stolen.