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Burglary vs Robbery: What’s the Difference in Australia?

Burglary and robbery are both crimes which carry serious sentences.

In Australia, burglary and robbery are both crimes which carry serious sentences if a person
is convicted.

However, while both crimes are theft-related, there are several key differences between
them which affect potential sentencing as well as the prosecution’s burden of proof.

Here, our lawyers explain the legal differences between burglary vs robbery in Australia, as well as what you should do if you have been charged with either crime.


What Is The Legal Definition of Burglary?

In Queensland, burglary is defined as unlawfully entering someone else’s dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, such as theft or assault.

This is outlined in Section 419 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 which states that: “Any person who enters or is in the dwelling of another with intent to commit an indictable offence in
the dwelling commits a crime.”

The elements of burglary entail that the accused:

  • Entered a dwelling or part of a dwelling
  • Did so as a trespasser
  • Entered with the intent to steal or commit an offence punishable by 5 or more years imprisonment, including assault and property damage

This means that burglary does not necessarily involve violence or the threat of violence, and
often applies to crimes where an individual has broken into a dwelling while the owner is
not present.

While burglary generally carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, there are
factors which can increase this period to a life sentence, including:

  • Entering the dwelling by means of a break;
  • The involvement of a weapon;
  • The offence being organised and carried out with a group of people


What Is The Legal Definition of Robbery?

Unlike burglary where the victims may not have had contact with the perpetrator while the
crime was being committed, robbery involves thefts where someone unlawfully takes
property from another person using force, coercion, or threats.

This is outlined in section 409 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 which states that stealing
becomes robbery when violence or the threat of violence is used when stealing an item.

The elements of burglary include the accused:

  • Taking property from someone else
  • Using force, coercion, or threats to do so
  • Not having consent from the victim to take the property

Because of the added element of violence, robbery is a more serious offence than burglary
and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. Similarly to burglary, this can be
increased to a life sentence if various factors arise including:

  • The victim being harmed during the robbery, or
  • The involvement of a weapon.

It’s important to note that in cases of burglary vs robbery, a ‘weapon’ does not necessarily
need to be something like a gun or a knife. A weapon can also be items such as baseball bats
or screwdrivers.


Have You Been Charged With Robbery or Burglary in QLD?

Because of the serious sentences that these crimes can carry, it is vital that if you are
accused, you should find an experienced criminal lawyer who can explain the intricacies of
burglary vs robbery and help you mount an appropriate legal defence.

At Guest Lawyers, our team of Brisbane criminal lawyers are licensed to practice across
Australia and often travel to other states and territories to do so. If you would like to discuss
a defence for burglary or robbery, get in touch with our lawyers either via Guest Lawyers’
email or by calling (07) 3211 3007.

We offer initial consultations (including in prisons) to assist with a number of assault
charges, and act for all persons required to appear before the Magistrates and Supreme
Court. We also conduct appeals in the Court of Appeal and High Court.