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What Is the Difference Between Theft and Burglary Criminal Offences?

Some people mistakenly assume theft and burglary are the same types of criminal offence. However, the Criminal Code of Canada has specifically categorized the offences as different crimes. Each crime has its own definitions and elements that must be present for one to be formally charged.

Theft Offences

A generalized definition of theft is the taking of another’s property without their permission or knowledge as a means to deprive them the enjoyment and use of the property, where the suspect benefits personally in some manner. It is important to stress the benefits one gain does not have to be monetary in nature or involve being able to use and enjoy the property they took.

For instance, you are at a neighborhood cookout and one of your neighbors is busy showing off their new smartphone to everyone. You feel jealous they can afford the latest smartphone. A short while later, you notice your neighbor has sat their phone down and walked off. You decide to take the phone.

After taking the phone, you decide to destroy it by smashing it with a hammer and tossing it into the trash. Even though you did not keep the phone for your own use or try to sell it for a monetary gain, you still have committed theft.

Burglary Offences

With burglary offences, certain elements of theft are also found, like the taking of property to deprive the victim of its use and enjoyment and personally benefit in some manner. However, there is one key distinction between the two crimes: Burglary involves the taking of another’s property with or without the use of direct or indirect force, yet with their knowledge.

For instance, you walk into a convenience store and see the cashier has left the register open. You reach around the counter and pull out the cash, just as the cashier notices what you are doing. You run out the door to make your escape.

This is considered burglary without the use of force because you simply took something and ran. On the other hand, let’s assume you walked into the store and told the cashier to give you all cash in the register or else you would shoot them.

Now you have implied the use of force while committing burglary, regardless of whether you actually have a gun. Furthermore, if you were to cause injury to another during the commission of the burglary, you could be charged with other offences, such as assault, in addition to the burglary offence.

As you can see, while theft and burglar do share some common elements they are different crimes. Regardless of whether one is charged with committing theft or burglary, they should take the offence seriously since there could be severe consequences if one is convicted and found guilty, including varying periods of imprisonment.

If you have been charged with theft or burglary, please feel free to contact me, Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg at 416-428-7360 now to schedule a consultation.