What is the difference between burglary and robbery?

Often, people use the terms “burglary” and “robbery” interchangeably when referring to theft of any kind. However, the two charges are not the same, and the alleged intent of the suspect, as well as his or her actions, distinguishes the two charges.

In Iowa, both burglary and robbery are considered serious offenses, but they may have different consequences. Understanding the difference between the two is essential if you find yourself with a charge of either crime.


State law defines burglary as the act of entering an occupied structure not open to the public with the intent to commit a felony, assault or theft. There are three degrees of a burglary that a person may be charged with, each separated into attempted or actual (whether or not the suspect actually went through with the act). First-degree burglary consists of entering an occupied structure with a weapon and/or intent to do harm, while second-degree burglary is entering an unoccupied structure with a weapon. Third-degree burglary is any other act not defined by first- or second-degree, typically the burglary of an unoccupied vehicle.


On the other hand, Iowa defines robbery as the intent to commit theft while also assaulting or threatening a victim. Iowa has first-degree and second-degree robbery, and both are considered felony charges.

Depending on the circumstances of the alleged act, a suspect may face a misdemeanor or a felony charge, while all robbery charges are felonies. Both are serious offenses, so those facing a charge of burglary or robbery should understand the potential consequences.