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What is the difference between theft and robbery?

by Uneeb Khan

The difference between theft and robbery lies in the way in which each of these crimes against property is practiced. In theft, there is no episode of violence or threat against the victim. Theft, on the other hand, consists of the occurrence of threat or violence against the person being robbed (synonymous with robbery).

However, theft can have two classifications:

  • simple theft,
  • Qualified theft.

Simple theft occurs when there is no transposition, breaking or destruction of an obstacle to subtraction. While qualified theft takes place through a means of clearing an obstacle to subtraction.

simple theftQualified theftTheft

Features Subtraction of assets without the use of threat, violence, disruption or destruction of obstacles. Subtraction without threat or violence, but with disruption, destruction of obstacle, abuse of trust, fraud or employment of two or more people. Subtraction through threat or use of violence.

Typification Art. 155 – §1, 2 and 3 Art. 155 – Paragraph 4 Art. 157

Feather From one to four years and a fine. From two to eight years and a fine. From four to ten years and a fine.

In special cases, the penalty may be increased, and may be from twenty to thirty years in the case of robberies followed by death.

Example Theft of objects such as wallets or cell phones from inside purses or pockets. Theft of cars or houses with breaking of doors, windows or climbing walls. Robbery with the use of firearms or bladed weapons, causing the victim to hand over his goods.

Robbery and theft are acts that represent the forced and unexpected subtraction of a movable asset (objects that can be mobilized), which rightfully belongs to a certain person. Both are considered property crimes.


The Brazilian Penal Code typifies the crimes of theft in its article 155:

To subtract, for oneself or for others, someone else’s movable thing.

Under the law, theft can be divided into two categories:

Simple theft

The simple swipe in which the subtraction takes place without a trace. Nothing is broken, no obstacle is broken. The penalty in these cases consists of imprisonment, from one to four years, and a fine.

Representative image of a simple swipe, subtraction takes place without leaving any trace

Simple theft differs from robbery in that there is no type of threat and from qualified theft because there is no breach of obstacle for subtraction.

Qualified theft

Qualified theft, unlike simple theft, occurs when an obstacle to subtraction is broken or overcome or the person stolen is deceived or defrauded.

In qualified theft, there is the breaking of some obstacle to the subtraction (e.g. breaking and entering, climbing walls, breaking seals, etc.)

The fourth paragraph of Art. 155 of the Penal Code provides for an increase in the penalty in these cases and considers aggravated theft when:

§ 4 – The penalty is imprisonment from two to eight years, and a fine, if the crime is committed:

I – with destruction or disruption of an obstacle to the subtraction of the thing;

II – with abuse of trust, or through fraud, escalation or dexterity;

III – using a false key;

IV – by means of a contest of two or more people.


Theft is another type of crime against property. It occurs when the subtraction occurs through threat or violence. A robbery is considered synonymous with theft and not another type of crime.

According to Art. 157 of the Penal Code, theft occurs when:

Taking another person’s movable property, for oneself or for others, by means of a serious threat or violence to the person, or after having, by any means, reduced the person to the impossibility of resistance

Theft is the subtraction by means of threat or violence to the person

In such cases, the penalty is imprisonment from four to ten years and a fine. This penalty may be increased due to aggravating factors:

§ 3 If the violence results in serious bodily harm, the penalty is imprisonment, from seven to fifteen years, in addition to the fine; if death results, imprisonment is from twenty to thirty years, without prejudice to the fine.

types of crime

Larceny is classified as a common crime, as it can be practiced by anyone, regardless of the agent’s motivation. The purpose is to seize the victim’s material property. Therefore, it is a crime against property only.

Theft is a complex crime. This is because it is composed of several acts that are considered individually as crimes, such as bodily harm (if any), theft and illegal constraint.

It is called a complex crime because it affronts more than one legal interest, since it harms both the patrimony and the physical or moral integrity of the victim.

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