Even in Kardashian World, Robbery And Burglary Are Different

Even in Kardashian World, Robbery And Burglary Are Different

It is (well, was) my secret shame that I follow the Kardashians—I’m not religious about it, but they’re a nice diversion from the gravitas of my criminal defense practice.  But even the sanctuary of Kardashian gossip is no longer safe; they have recently been victims of crime—one very serious, and one less so.  And my Kardashian bubble completely burst when it intersected with my pet peeve—people describing a burglary as a robbery.  Under the law of most jurisdictions, including California, the two are completely different offenses.  As the Kardashian troubles have shown us, however, the Internet is oblivious to the distinction.

The short explanation:  A person commits a robbery when he takes something from a person (or their immediate presence) through force or fear. A person commits a burglary when she enters a home or business, with the intent to steal something or to commit a felony.  When things are actually stolen from the home or business, it can become a burglary and a theft. If no force or fear is used, it is not a robbery.

In October 2016, armed intruders broke into Kim Kardashian’s Paris hotel room, bound and gagged her, and took millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry.  That was definitely a robbery.

On January 9, 2017, a woman went into DASH, the Kardashians’ West Hollywood store, and fled with about $1,600 in merchandise.  That was a theft, and probably a burglary as well.  It was NOT a robbery.

The Internet has blown up with coverage of the DASH incident, and has incorrectly decreed it a robbery.  I Googled “Kardashian DASH robbery,” and came up with 740,000 hits.  A Google search of “Kardashian DASH theft” came up with similar results; all of them (with two exceptions that I found) referred to the incident as a robbery.  Kudos to TMZ.com, whose headline was, “DASH Store Hit by Thief.”  Perhaps Harvey Levin, TMZ’s managing editor and an attorney, had a hand in the story. The other accurate article I found was on the Canyon News website (canyon-news.com), which not only had an accurate headline (“DASH store burglar steals $1,600 in merchandise”), but it explicitly stated in the article that “the suspect was caught on camera . . . and did not use force.”

Robberies are much more serious than burglaries, and are punished accordingly. If the Paris robbery had occurred in California, there could be a potential prison sentence of nine years for “robbery in concert,” per California Penal Code section 213(A)(1)(a).   In addition, the sentencing judge would likely add ten years for the display of the weapon, per California Penal Code section 12022.53(b).  If the gunmen had the poor judgment to be in a criminal street gang, they would likely be sentenced to an indeterminate term of 15 years to life, pursuant to California Penal Code section 186.22(b)(4).

Compare this possible life-in-prison commitment for robbery, to the potential sentence for the DASH theft.  A felony second degree commercial burglary conviction carries a maximum sentence of three years in county jail, assuming that the defendant does not have any sentence-enhancing qualifications.  The DASH defendant would serve about half of that time, with good behavior.

Perhaps the Kardashians are not interested in the difference between robbery and burglary; after all, it’s their stuff that went missing, and one could hardly blame them for wanting the book thrown at the persons responsible.  But the law treats robbery and burglary differently, with good reason.  I can only hope that my missive will help a few more websites understand the distinction between the two crimes.  In the meantime, I think I will have to stop following the Kardashians, and start following the antics of Tarek and Christina from “Flip or Flop.”  I don’t get on my high horse when it comes to family law.

Susan Israel

Susan Israel, a former Public Defender, is an experienced trial lawyer focusing on criminal defense.
Susan Israel

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