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What is the difference between robbery and burglary in Iowa?

by David Cmelik

I sometimes hear people confuse robbery with burglary. This is usually in the context of a homeowner casually mentioning that they want to prevent their house “from getting robbed” while they are “gone on vacation.” Houses cannot be robbed. They can, however, be burglarized. Under Iowa law, burglary is defined as the entry of an “occupied” structure with the intent to commit a theft, an assault, or a forcible felony. Occupied in this context is a misnomer. Burglary of an “occupied” structure under Iowa law is the entry of a structure that is capable of being occupied. That includes empty houses and other structures. It gets a little murky when we’re talking about garden shacks and tool sheds but the prosecutor will argue that such structures are capable of being “occupied.” A defendant charged with a structure that is arguably not capable of being occupied should consult and retain an attorney to research the law on this subject. Burglary in the first degree requires any of the following while one or more persons are present: possession of an explosive or incendiary device or material; possession of a dangerous weapon; intentional or reckless infliction of bodily injury on any person; the person performs or participates in a sex act with a person which would constitute sexual abuse under section 709.1. Burglary in the first degree is a Class “B” felony. Burglary in the second degree requires any of the following while no persons are present: possession of an explosive or incendiary device or material; possession of a dangerous weapon; a bodily injury results to any person. In the alternative, second degree burglary occurs when one or more persons are present but there is no incendiary/explosive device, no dangerous weapon, and no injury. Burglary in the third degree is any burglary not covered above—which essentially means a break-in without dangerous weapons, explosives, nor injuries. I discuss robbery elsewhere in this blog. The defendant must assault or threaten someone in person with the intent to steal regardless of whether they actually steal anything. This is a far cry from a burglary although neither are a picnic for the alleged victim.  A blog is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.
Someone charged with any kind of robbery in the State of Iowa should immediately consult with an attorney. A blog is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.

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