What Is the Difference Between Burglary and Theft?

You probably have some idea about burglary and theft, but how well do you really understand the difference between the two? They may seem like similar crimes on the surface, but legally, there are some distinct contrasts.

We’ll walk through the key elements, dispel some common misconceptions, and help clarify why the legal system treats these acts differently. By the end, you’ll have a clear grasp of how burglary and theft diverge. In case you are ever charged with either of these offenses, remember to get in touch with a Nashville criminal defense lawyer right away.

What Is Theft?

Under Tennessee Code § 39-14-103, theft refers to unlawfully taking someone else’s property without their permission, with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. This includes crimes like:

  • Shoplifting – Taking merchandise from a store without paying
  • Pickpocketing – Stealing items from someone’s pocket or bag
  • Burglary – Entering a building or vehicle to steal property inside
  • Embezzlement – Stealing money, assets or property entrusted to you

Theft does not require force or threat of violence like robbery. It simply means taking something that does not belong to you.

What Is Burglary?

Burglary is illegally entering a building or structure to commit a crime, especially theft. There are a few key aspects that define a burglary:

  • Entering Unlawfully – The perpetrator enters the premises without permission, typically by breaking in or sneaking in through an unlocked door or window. This illegal entry is a key component of burglary.
  • Intent to Commit a Crime – The burglar must have the intent to commit another crime, like theft, assault, or vandalism, once inside. Simply trespassing would not qualify as burglary.
  • Type of Structure – The illegal entry has to be into some enclosed structure, whether it’s a house, business, shed, garage, vehicle, etc. An open yard would generally not qualify.
  • Occupancy Status – In most states, the structure does not necessarily have to be occupied at the time of illegal entry to qualify as burglary. An unoccupied vacation home or storage unit could still be a target.

burglary entails illegally entering a building to commit a crime

Theft Punishments in Tennessee

The punishment for theft in Tennessee depends on how much the stolen goods are worth. Let’s break it down:

  • If the stolen property or services are worth less than $1,000, the charge is a Class A Misdemeanor. This can mean up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
  • If the value is between $1,000 and $2,500, it’s a Class E Felony. This can bring 1-6 years in prison.
  • For $2,500-$10,000 stolen, you face a Class D Felony charge. Expect 2-12 years behind bars if convicted.
  • The next level up is a Class C Felony for theft of $10,000-$60,000. Punishment ranges from 3-15 years in prison.
  • If the stolen property or services exceed $60,000 but don’t go over $250,000, it’s a Class B Felony. This serious charge can result in 8-30 years imprisonment if found guilty.
  • Finally, if the stolen property or services exceed $250,000, this qualifies as a Class A Felony and carries with it a 15-60-year-imprisonment sentence if found guilty.

Burglary Punishments in Tennessee

When it comes to burglary charges in Tennessee, the punishments can vary significantly depending on the specifics of the crime:

For a standard burglary (not involving a home), you may face 1 to 12 years in jail or prison, along with fines ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. This would be charged as either a Class E or Class D felony.

  • An aggravated burglary involves illegally entering a home or residence. For this more severe offense, you could serve 3 to 15 years behind bars and pay fines up to $10,000. It is categorized as a Class C felony.
  • The most serious charge is especially aggravated burglary. This applies when a home occupant suffers serious bodily injury during the crime. It is a Class B felony with very steep penalties – between 8 and 30 years of incarceration and fines up to $25,000.

Reach Out to an Experienced Nashville Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you find yourself charged with burglary, theft, or another property crime in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s essential to secure skilled legal counsel as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorneys at Byron Pugh Legal are intimately familiar with property crime laws and how prosecutors typically handle these cases in Nashville.

We are ready to step in and zealously represent your rights and interests in the matter. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous individuals facing burglary, theft, and related allegations. We understand how devastating criminal charges can be for your reputation, family, and future.

We aim to provide compassionate guidance and aggressive advocacy every step of the way. To discuss your property crimes case in a free consultation, call Byron Pugh Legal at 615-255-9595 today. Our Nashville criminal defense attorneys are here to help.