Burglary vs. Robbery in Indiana: What’s the Difference?

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The crimes of burglary and robbery are often confused.  Many people believe that burglary is synonymous with robbery.  In fact, the elements of these two crimes are quite different.  Robbery, generally, is the taking of property from another person by force or the threat of force.  Burglary, on the other hand, occurs when an individual breaks into the dwelling or structure of another, with the intent to commit a felony or theft inside.

If the structure broken into is not a dwelling, or residence, the crime is a level 5 felony, punishable by 1-6 years.  Most often, level 5 burglaries are charged when an individual is alleged to have broken into a business or a storage unit.  If the property broken into is a residence, the offense is a level 4 felony, punishable by 2-12 years.  If any person other than the defendant is injured during the commission of the offense, the burglary becomes a level 3 felony, punishable by 3-16 years.  If the defendant used a deadly weapon during the offense, or if the offense resulted in serious bodily injury to any person other than the defendant, the crime becomes a level 2 felony, punishable by 10-30 years.  The burglary is considered a level 1 felony, punishable by 20-40 years, if the property broken into is a dwelling and it results in serious bodily injury to any person other than the defendant.

When people think of breaking into a home, the images that usually come to mind are a shattered window, or a smashed-in doorway.  However, for purposes of the burglary statute in Indiana, even the slightest movement of a door or window is considered a “breaking.”  Further, a person’s intent to commit either a theft or felony once inside the property is all that is required for the state to prove burglary.   Consider this hypothetical:

Danny Defendant is taking a late night stroll in a nice Indianapolis neighborhood when he comes upon an impressively large house.  It appears as if the family that lives there is on vacation.  There are no cars in the driveway.  All of the lights inside the house are off, and there are a few packages stacked on the front doorstep.  Danny walks up the driveway and looks into the house through the living room window.  Through the window, and from the moonlight, Danny can see nice leather furniture, several framed family photos hanging on the walls, and an expensive looking television mounted on the wall.  Danny also notices that the window was mistakenly left about halfway open.  Danny pauses for a second, pondering how he is going to pay back his gambling debts from betting on the Indianapolis Colts.  After a few moments, Danny makes the unfortunate decision to try and steal the television so he can pawn it for some extra cash.  Danny walks up to the window, and finds that he can’t quite fit through the opening.  Danny has to lift the window ever so slightly in order to fit his body through it.  Once inside, Danny begins to dismount the television.  Just as he gets the television off the wall, police cars arrive at the scene and surround the house.  Danny lets out a deep sigh and prepares to face the music.  What is Danny going to be charged with?

Danny is going to be charged with burglary as a level 4 felony.  First, Danny chose to commit this crime at what is clearly a dwelling, or someone’s home.  Despite the window being halfway open, Danny had to lift it open a bit more in order to get inside.  Even if Danny only lifts the window another inch, that inch is sufficient to satisfy the “breaking” element of burglary.  Finally, even though Danny did not officially take the television from the residence, it was certainly his intent to do so.  Danny broke and entered into the home with the intent to commit theft.  As such, Danny has committed all of the elements of residential burglary, and will be charged with a level 4 felony.

Are you or someone you know charged with burglary?  Contact the experienced attorneys at Banks and Brower anytime at (317) 870-0019 or at info@banksbrower.com.