The terms “theft”, “burglary”, and “robbery” are sometimes used interchangeably in crimes that involve unlawfully taking someone’s property.

In reality, although theft and robbery are both crimes of property, they involve different circumstances and have different associated punishments.

The term “burglary” is no longer used in Canadian law and has been replaced with the term “break and enter”.

If you are charged with theft, robbery or break and enter in Ontario, it is important to understand the charge(s) against you and to take steps to defend yourself. Otherwise, an unwanted criminal record may follow you for the rest of your life – not to mention the threat of a jail term and significant fines.

At Affordable Defence in Ottawa, we are experienced at defending people accused of robbery, theft and/or break and enter, and can prevent potentially serious consequences.

What is theft in Ontario?

Under Canadian law, theft is intentionally taking something from someone else without their permission.

Section 332 (1) of Canada’s Criminal Code explains it like this:

“Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent

(a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;

(b) to pledge it or deposit it as security;

(c) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or

(d) to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.”

In seeking a conviction for theft, the purpose for taking the property is not important, but the intention to take it is. The prosecution must prove that the person meant to take the other person’s property.

Theft is classified in two ways in Ontario, according to the value of goods stolen:

  1. Theft under $5,000 – this is a hybrid offence that may be prosecuted as a summary or indictable conviction
  2. Theft over $5,000 – this is charged as an indictable offence with more serious potential punishments (up to 10 years in prison)

What are the main differences between burglary and robbery?

People still use the term “burglary” when discussing break-ins to homes or businesses in Ottawa. From a legal standpoint, instead of “burglary”, we now use the term “break and enter”.

According to Section 348 of the Criminal Code, everyone who commits the following actions is guilty of the offence of break and enter:

(a) breaks and enters a place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,

(b) breaks and enters a place and commits an indictable offence therein, or

(c) breaks out of a place after

Both break and enter and robbery may involve the theft of property, but the personal circumstances of the alleged victim are different.

You can be charged with break and enter whether or not the victim is present at the time. It involves the act of gaining illegal access to a building to carry out any other serious offence.

To be charged with robbery, the victim must be present at the scene. It involves the unlawful act of taking property from a person using intimidation or force.

According to Section 343 of the Criminal Code

Every one commits robbery who

(a) steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;

(b) steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;

(c) assaults any person with intent to steal from him; or

(d) steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.

This explains the main differences between robbery and “burglary”.

What are the main differences between robbery and theft?

Robbery and theft are also commonly misunderstood in Ontario and should not be used interchangeably.

There is an important difference. A robbery (as described above) includes the use of violence, intimidation or force and is therefore treated more harshly by the Canadian justice system. Theft does not.

If threats are made against a person to unlawfully obtain their property, a person is likely to be charged with robbery rather than theft. There does not need to be physical contact – waving a gun or other weapon around constitutes a threat.

Unlike theft, robbery is always an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

What is the difference between break & enter and home invasion?

More confusion can arise in the definitions between break and enter and home invasion.

As you know, break and enter offences involve breaking into a place with the intention of stealing property.  If that occurs, you may be charged with several offences: as well as break and enter, you could face a charge of theft, possession of property obtained by crime, and mischief for any damages caused.

If the victim is at home at the time of the break and enter or theft incident, you may also be charged with home invasion. This is NOT an official offence dealt with separately in the Criminal Code but may be an aggravating factor that can lead to more serious penalties.

Affordable defence for theft, break and enter or robbery charges in Ottawa

The first step in building your defence against theft, break and enter or robbery charges is a free case evaluation with an Affordable Defence lawyer.

It is important to act quickly. Our experienced criminal defence lawyers will protect your rights, help you understand your legal options, and avoid the most serious consequences of the charge(s) you face.