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What Are the Differences Among Theft, Robbery & Burglary in North Carolina?

By Joel Hancock

In North Carolina, criminal offenses related to property and personal belongings are classified into distinct categories, each carrying its own set of legal implications. Understanding the differences among theft, robbery, and burglary is essential for both legal practitioners and the general public. Here are the elements that define each offense and the potential consequences individuals may face.


Theft, also known as larceny, is the unlawful taking of someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. In North Carolina, theft can be categorized based on the value of the stolen property, ranging from misdemeanor larceny for lower-value items to felony larceny for more valuable possessions.


Robbery involves the use of force, threats, or intimidation to take property from another person. The key element that differentiates robbery from theft is the direct confrontation with the victim. The use of force or the threat of harm elevates the offense to a more serious criminal act.


Burglary is the unauthorized entry into a building or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, typically theft, inside. It’s important to note that actual theft or any other criminal act need not occur for an act to be considered burglary; the intent to commit a crime upon entry is sufficient.

Degrees of Offenses

In North Carolina, theft offenses are classified into degrees based on the value of the stolen property, ranging from misdemeanor larceny in the third degree to felony larceny in the first degree. Robbery is generally considered a felony, and the severity of the charge may increase based on factors such as the use of weapons or injuries to the victim. Burglary is also typically classified as a felony.

Consequences and Penalties

The penalties for theft, robbery, and burglary vary based on the severity of the offense, the presence of aggravating factors, and the defendant’s criminal history. Misdemeanor larceny may result in less severe consequences compared to felony larceny, robbery, or burglary, which can lead to significant prison sentences.

Legal Defenses

Defending against charges of theft, robbery, or burglary often involves examining the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense. Legal defenses may include: 

  • Challenging the intent element
  • Questioning the identification of the defendant
  • Disputing the use of force in robbery cases

Whether facing charges or seeking to prevent victimization, awareness of these differences empowers individuals to make informed decisions and ensures that justice is served within the nuances of each criminal offense.

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Accused of a Crime

If you have been accused of a crime, how you handle the situation can impact the outcome. Your best bet for handling it the right way is with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who understands what you are up against and will fight on your behalf. However, time is of the essence, which is why it’s best to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.