If law enforcement officers accuse you of stealing something in California, the specific charge could be theft, robbery or burglary depending on the circumstances under which you allegedly stole the money or property. As FindLaw explains, all three of these white collar crimes are similar in nature, but they nevertheless represent distinctly different charges.
A theft charge per se, often called larceny, means that officers allege that you took personal property from someone with the intent to permanently deprive the person of it.
Robbery constitutes a crime in which you allegedly not only stole personal property from someone intending to permanently deprive him or her of it, but also that you allegedly threatened your victim with some kind of a weapon, such as a knife or a gun. Whatever type of weapon you allegedly used, your victim had to be in fear of you bodily harming him or her if (s)he failed to acquiesce to your demands to give you his or her personal property.
Unlike theft or robbery where you allegedly actually steal something, you need not steal anything in order to be charged with burglary. Rather, all the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you is that you unlawfully entered someone’s property, by force or even by means of an unlocked door or window, with the intent to commit some kind of a crime. Burglary does not require that you intended to commit a theft once inside; it could have been any crime. Nor does burglary require that you actually succeeded in committing the crime you intended to commit. Burglary requires only illegal entry and intent.
This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.