It’s common to see TV characters walk into a room, find that it has been looted, and shout, “I’ve been robbed!” Technically, they haven’t. When someone has stolen something, they may not have technically committed a robbery. Burglary is often misunderstood as well. When someone burgles a property, they might not actually steal anything. In the state of Virginia, robbery is taking something by force, and burglary is illegally entering a property to commit a crime.
By today’s standards, burglary does not have to include theft. Any time a person illegally enters a property for the purposes of committing a crime, they are committing burglary. The words “for the purposes of a committing a crime” are important. The crime need not be a major, egregious action. If someone is there to do something illegal, from vandalism to arson, they are committing burglary.
In Virginia, burglary is classified in three separate ways. At the lowest end of severity, there is statutory burglary. Statutory burglary can happen during the day and can be committed in a business or public space.
The next category is “common law” burglary. This is the classic vision of burglary, someone breaking into a private residence at night. Again, this break-in was committed for the purposes of committing any crime, not just theft.
Virginia’s final form of burglary does not have a specific name, but it could be called burglary with a deadly weapon. If the alleged burglar is armed, they can be charged with this high crime. The weapon does not need to be used or drawn; it need only be on the burglar’s person.
Virginia’s penalties for burglary are severe. They begin as high felonies with long prison stretches and large fines.
- Statutory Burglary:
This can be a Class 2 or Class 3 felony, depending on the circumstances. Class 3, the lower of the two, is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to $100,000. The higher of the two, Class 2, can be punished with life in prison and fines also up to $100,000.
- Common Law Burglary:
This is a Class 6 felony, the lowest of Virginia’s felonies. It is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $2,500.
- Burglary with a Deadly Weapon:
This is a Class 2 felony. Like Statutory burglary, the accused can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
Robbery, in legal terms, is not just the simple theft of an item. It does not necessarily include breaking and entering, and the victim must be present. For a robbery to take place, the alleged must actually steal property from another person. It must take place in the victim’s presence and against the victim’s will. The property is stolen through force, intimidation, or violence. It could be as simple as a playground bully balling his fist and saying, “Give me all your lunch money,” or it could be as severe as using a shotgun to rob a liquor store.
Like burglary, robbery is split into three separate categories: First-degree,Second-degree,and armed. First-degree robbery is the most severe. It involves “extreme force” against the victim. Second-degree robbery is less violent, but still quite serious. It may include incapacitating the victim through drugging or electrically shocking them. Armed robbery is treated as a separate charge on top of a first- or second-degree offense. Interestingly, the robber doesn’t need to use or brandish their weapon during the robbery. If the state has reasonable evidence that the robber had a weapon on their person, that robber can be charged with armed robbery.
Robbery is a felony in Virginia, and it carries harsh penalties:
- First-degree Robbery:
10 years to life in prison
- Second-degree Robbery:
5 to 10 years in prison
- Armed Robbery:
This has a minimum of at least 8 years in prison, depending on the circumstances. The robbery could technically be a second-degree offense, which is a minimum of 5 years. If the alleged robber was armed at the time, an extra 3 years are added to the sentence, totaling 8 years.
If you have been accused of either robbery or burglary, I can help. I am Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law, and I have years of experience defending Virginians in court. Call me today for a free consultation at (540) 818-3859, or contact me online.