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Burglary vs. Robbery in Arizona: Key Distinctions and Legal Implications

As an attorney practicing in Phoenix, Arizona, I often field questions concerning the differences between burglary and robbery. While the layperson might use these terms interchangeably, they refer to very different criminal activities in the eyes of the Arizona justice system. In this blog post, we will explore the key distinctions between burglary and robbery, their legal implications, and potential consequences if one is convicted of either offense.

Burglary in Arizona

In Arizona, burglary is defined under sections 13-1506, 13-1507, and 13-1508 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The statutes differentiate burglary into three separate degrees, each with unique defining characteristics and potential penalties.

First-degree burglary (A.R.S. 13-1508) involves entering or remaining unlawfully in a residential or nonresidential structure, or a fenced commercial or residential yard, with the intent to commit theft or any felony therein. This offense is further elevated to the first degree if the perpetrator is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon, or if they commit the offense in the nighttime.

Second-degree burglary (A.R.S. 13-1507) is similar but does not require the aggravating factors of nighttime commission or use of weapons or explosives. Third-degree burglary (A.R.S. 13-1506) involves breaking into a vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or theft.

Robbery in Arizona

Robbery, on the other hand, is outlined under A.R.S. 13-1902. The unique characteristic of robbery is the use or threat of force against another person with the intent to coerce surrender of property, or to prevent resistance to taking or retaining property. This means that a robbery is essentially a theft that involves direct victim interaction and intimidation or physical harm.

Arizona law further defines more serious forms of robbery such as armed robbery (A.R.S. 13-1904), which involves the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and aggravated robbery (A.R.S. 13-1903), which involves the aid of one or more accomplices.

Key Differences and Legal Implications

While both crimes involve theft or the intention to commit theft, the main distinction between burglary and robbery lies in the manner of execution and victim involvement.

Burglary primarily concerns the unlawful entry into a building or vehicle with the intent to commit a crime. This crime does not necessarily involve an interaction with a victim. A person can be charged with burglary even if the intended felony or theft was not completed, as long as the unlawful entry and intent can be proven.

Robbery, in contrast, involves a direct confrontation with a victim, using force or threat thereof to obtain or retain property. This crime involves a higher degree of victim endangerment, which often results in more severe penalties.


The penalties for burglary and robbery in Arizona vary based on the degree of the crime, previous criminal records, and specific circumstances of the case. Burglaries range from class 2 to class 3 felonies, with first-degree burglary potentially resulting in up to 12.5 years in prison for a first-time offender.

Robberies are considered class 2 to class 4 felonies. Simple robbery may result in a prison term of up to 3.75 years for a first offense. However, armed or aggravated robbery, due to their violent nature, carry heftier penalties, with potential sentences of up to 21 years in the case of armed robbery.

In conclusion, while burglary and robbery both involve elements of theft, their definitions, the circumstances under which they occur, and the penalties they carry, vary significantly under Arizona law. These crimes are serious offenses with potential life-altering consequences. If you or a loved one is facing charges of burglary or robbery, it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to navigate the complex legal processes involved.

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