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burglary/theft/robbery
Posted: 25 February 2012 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The most common offences with which rioters were charged were burglary (49%), violent disorder (21%), theft (16%), robbery (2%) and criminal damage (2%).

says the Guardian of the UK riots last year.

The differences between burglary, theft and robbery may be clear in law but not in common parlance. I’m guessing burglary is from a house or shop or place of business; robbery is on the street (as in Dick Turpinesque highway robbery) but where does that leave theft? I can’t think of a distinction.

Violent disorder must be rioting (running around in gangs defying the police) and criminal damage breaking stuff like windows and setting cars alight.

Do other English-speaking countries observe these legal niceties and are the terms better understood there by folk like me?

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Posted: 25 February 2012 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Don’t forget larceny. I think that burglary is (or used to be) defined in UK law as entering a household with felonious intent in the hours of darkness. If you robbed the place in daylight you were charged with housebreaking. Burglary was the more serious charge, presumably because the thief was more likely to encounter the householder at night. These are matters of law though and I’m pretty sure this wasn’t reflected in common speech.

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Posted: 25 February 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In common use, “theft” is the broadest term, in that burglary and robbery are forms of theft, but in this context it would refer to the illegal taking of property without illicit entry (which would make it burglary), and without force or threat of force (which would make it robbery).

E.g., shoplifting something from a store that I have entered legally during normal business hours is (simple) theft, breaking in at night and taking something is burglary, threatening the clerk with violence if he doesn’t give me the contents of the till (or some other property) is robbery.

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Posted: 25 February 2012 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think we’ve covered it before but it’s interesting that burgle is a back-formation from burglar. The noun goes way back to the 13th century while the earliest cite in OED for the verb is 1872. Burglar itself was also pressed into service as a verb around the same time (1890 cite) but obviously that one didn’t stick.

BTW in the entry for burglary OED mentions the distinction between British and US usage.

The legal definition of burglary in the U.K. differs slightly from that of the U.S. and elsewhere (see quots. for certain distinctions).

I think these are the relevant ones.

1855 Wharton Crim. Law U.S. 598 Burglary is the breaking and entering the dwelling-house of another in the night.
1855 Wharton Crim. Law U.S. 611 The breaking and entering must be in the night.
1968 Hansard Lords 15 Feb. 217 Clauses 9 and 10 deal with burglary. They replace the complicated ‘breaking and entering offences’.‥The concept of ‘breaking’ is itself unsatisfactory.‥ This Bill draws no distinction between different kinds of building or between night and day; the concept of breaking disappears and is replaced by the concept of entering as a trespasser.
1974 Encycl. Brit. Micropædia IX. 928/3 Housebreaking originally covered daytime entries, whereas burglary was limited to nighttime thefts; but burglary has been extended to cover all hours of the day and to cover buildings other than houses, as well as automobiles.
1975 A. D. Hechtman in McKinney’s Consolidated Laws N.Y. 35 Burglary in the third degree is committed when a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein. If such a building happens to be a dwelling, and the invasion occurs in the night time,‥the intruder is‥guilty of the more serious crime of burglary in the second degree [etc.].

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Posted: 25 February 2012 07:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Aldi’s post reminds me that I bungled the definition of burglary, which need not include theft, although my example is still valid, I think.

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Posted: 25 February 2012 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The exact legal definitions will be found in the penal codes and vary between the UK and each of the fifty states, but the general distinction that Dr T draws applies pretty much everywhere.

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Posted: 27 February 2012 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The following are from Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition)—although the actual definitions go into greater detail:

Regarding Burglary, essentially cites to Aldi’s definition above as the common law definition and then notes that modern definitions are less restrictive.  Citing to the Model Penal Code Section 221.1: “A person is guilty of burglary if he enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof, with purpose to commit a crime therein, unless the premises at the time are open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter.”

Robbery.  Felonious taking of money, personal property, or any other article of value, in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear. [Note, under this definition, a pickpocket would not be a robber because force or fear is not employed]

Theft.  A popular name for larceny.  The act of stealing.  The taking of property without the owner’s consent.  [Also notes that theft is a wider term than larceny and includes swindling and embezzlement].

Larceny.  The unlawful taking and carrying away of property of another with intent to appropriate it to use inconsistent with the latter’s rights.  [Notes that common law distinctions have given way to broader definitions that include obtaining money under false pretenses, embezzlement, etc.]

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Posted: 28 February 2012 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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All clear now, I think, thanks.
Couldn’t the Black’s entries be written in modern English, though, maybe in an alternative layperson’s edition without the thereofs and archaic “in the possession of another” legalese, etc and the need for solicitors/lawyers to explain/decipher it? They sound like Henry James wrote them eg “The unlawful taking and carrying away of property of another with intent to appropriate it to use inconsistent with the latter’s rights.” There must be simpler locutions cf. the KJV vs. modern translations.
Basically, in tabloid-speak, the rioters largely looted shops and fenced stuff. Not that I’m demanding an answer to any of these semantic matters with menaces.

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Posted: 28 February 2012 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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It is modern English. I don’t see anything wrong with the “thereof;” it’s a concise, precise, single-word phrasing that otherwise would be verbose and clumsy. And “in the possession of another” is utterly clear and in no way “archaic.”

Black’s is written for lawyers, so the need to avoid legalisms does not obtain. Also, assuming Jim is quoting from the most recent edition (I’m too lazy to reach over and grab my copy, which is about four feet away), it’s edited by Bryan Garner, and I would hesitate to call Garner out on excessive jargon use.

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Posted: 29 February 2012 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, it’s a common fallacy for laymen to read something written by and for specialists and think “What a lot of ridiculous jargon, why can’t they write in normal English?” There are good reasons for most of the jargon.

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Posted: 06 March 2012 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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But wouldn’t “someone else’s property” work just as well as “property of another”? I put it to you that neither admit of any ambiguity and it sounds less esoteric and intimidating to the layperson. “Carrying away” (in a sack marked swag?) might have a specific legal meaning but it sounds archaic to some not unadjacent /bearing propinquity to me.
Wittgenstein’s famous dictum “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” appears in more recent translations as “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” The earlier version (1922) rhymes thereof with whereof, though in philosophy it is more about being faithful to the meaning of the German original. Actually, they both mean the same but one sounds archaic as later translators saw. The same first translation has (the aim of philosophy is) “to shew the fly out of the fly-bottle”. That’s ‘show’ not ‘shoo’ (you couldn’t get in it unless it was a Klein bottle anyway).

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Posted: 06 March 2012 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Surely you realize that you, a layperson, can’t tell by just looking what might “work just as well” as a given legal formulation?  You’re operating on the base assumption that it’s mostly antiquated junk that can easily be modernized, and I assure you that’s not true.  I’m not saying there couldn’t be improvements, but it takes a lot of chutzpah to think one doesn’t need to know anything about a specialization to be able to improve the jargon used by specialists.

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Posted: 06 March 2012 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Carrying away does in fact have a specific legal meaning. According to Black’s, one of the elements of larceny is the carrying away of the stolen property and there is a considerable body of law that defines exactly what is meant by carrying away that using a word like remove would not denote. You could use asportation in lieu of carrying away, but that’s even more opaque.

But wouldn’t “someone else’s property” work just as well as “property of another”?

This is just a guess on my part, but someone else’s property might be interpreted to mean “the property of another individual person,” when you mean to include corporate entities as well.

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Posted: 06 March 2012 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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And I’d hardly call property of another esoteric or intimidating to the layman.

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Posted: 06 March 2012 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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There are good reasons for most of the jargon.

Absolutely! Expecting jargon to conform to “plain English” is like saying that manufacturing blueprints should be drawn in a way that anyone can understand them. It would be counterproductive.

Jargon exists because it serves the community that develops it. If you’re not a member of the community, there isn’t any reason you should understand the jargon.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I recognise the need for unambiguous legal delineation that judges etc can cite, but I also suggested there could be a sort of Coles Notes version or even an annotated version so simple people can get a handle on what is going on before having to have it professionally explained to them at considerable cost. Most readers of Shakespeare need stuff explained in footnotes rather than paying a lit professor to do it for them. I mean ‘as plain as possible’ for Black’s without losing the content and even LH conceded there was room for improvement (wuhey!).

“You could use asportation in lieu of carrying away, but that’s even more opaque.”

You could use instead of in lieu of in lieu of thereof, Dave. Would Black’s? :)

What are you in for, dude?
Carrying away the property of another, man.

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