Stealing, robbery, and burglary are incredibly common across Queensland. In fact, there have been over 450,000 property related offences in the last three years alone, according to Queensland Police data.

Here, we break down the differences between stealing, robbery, and burglary, the common penalties for these offences and why you need an expert criminal lawyer to support your case.

What are the differences between stealing, robbery and burglary?

Though stealing, robbery and burglary appear as similar offences, there are significant differences in consequences. If you've committed a property-related offence, it's important to distinguish the differences between them to truly understand the charges against you, and to help raise any potential defences.


Under section 391 of the Criminal Code 1899 Act (Qld), stealing occurs when a person takes an item that isn't theirs without consent, with no intention of returning it to the owner. This includes:

  • Removing a person's jewellery or wallet without their knowledge at the time.
  • Taking an item over $150 from a store without paying – items taken under this amount are usually considered as a shoplifting offence, and typically incur fines.
  • Claiming a pet or animal knowing that it isn't missing and has an owner, without making effort to contact them.

Stealing also includes "borrowing" money without permission – even if you're sure you'll pay the amount back eventually. Perceivably the lesser of the three aforementioned offences, the maximum sentence for stealing is five years imprisonment. If the item stolen is a firearm, taken with the intent to be used for an indictable offence, such as murder, a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment can be given.


While stealing is often committed stealthily, robbery is generally carried out in the presence of the victim. According to Section 409 the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), stealing becomes robbery when violence is used or threatened when stealing an item. Examples of robbery include:

  • Approaching someone violently and snatching their purse.
  • Demanding a victim to withdraw cash from an ATM and threatening them with violence if they don't comply.
  • Holding up a store and demanding money from the register.

Robbery incurs penalties of up to 14 years in prison, as stated in Section 411 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). However, there are certain aggravating factors that can result in life imprisonment, including:

  • If the robbery was committed in company, or as an organised group.
  • If an offender harms a victim of the robbery, either immediately, during, or after the incident.
  • In instances where an offender was armed, or even pretends to be armed with a dangerous or offensive weapon.

It's important to note that an offensive weapon isn't limited to firearms, or knives – items you'd generally associate with acts of violence. A weapon in this case includes dangerous items such as screwdrivers, cricket bats, and syringes. Ultimately, an item can only be considered a weapon if it was used for violent purposes, including as a threat.


Burglary differs from robbery in that a victim doesn't necessarily need to be present at the time. An offence of this nature, for example, could involve breaking into a residential property while the occupant was out of town, or unlawfully entering a store outside of operating hours. Burglary generally carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, though, there are factors that may potentially increase this period to a life sentence, such as:

  • If the offence was organised, and completed in company.
  • Carrying out the offence at night time, while occupants of a residential property were home and sleeping.
  • If the offence was aggravated and armed, regardless of whether the weapon was used for violence or as a threat.

What should I do if I've been charged with stealing, robbery, or burglary?

As the three aforementioned offences are serious, it's important that you contact an expert lawyer as early as possible to help you through the legalities. Not only will a criminal lawyer act in your best interests to achieve a favourable outcome, they'll help in explaining the legal process, and ensure you're well-informed of everything pertaining to your case. A major headache for those under arrest is succumbing to police intimidation. If you believe you've been subject to police intimidation, your lawyer can help you file a complaint, and guide you through the subsequent proceedings.

At Beavon Lawyers, we understand criminal law like the back of our hand. Our team are ready and dedicated to helping our clients achieve a favourable outcome for their case. For more information on how we can assist with your legal needs, get in touch with us using our free initial phone consultation.