Bad Karma Ahead for Busted Yoga-Class Burglar?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 15, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Yogis and yoginis in Berkeley can be zen once again. Police have arrested a suspected yoga class burglar who's accused of stealing from four yoga studios, a capoeira gym, and a restaurant -- all while students and customers were distracted.

Christopher D. Newton, 20, has been charged with six felony commercial burglary counts for stealing unattended wallets from yoga students while they were being mindful in class, according to Berkeleyside.

After Newton's allegedly unchill crimes, what bad karma could be in store for the accused yoga class burglar?

Commercial Burglary in California

In general, burglary is the unlawful entry into pretty much any structure with the intent to commit a crime while you're inside. However, California distinguishes between burglary of a home and burglary of a business.

Any criminal who enters a place of business in California with the intent to commit a felony can potentially be guilty of commercial burglary. Although people tend to only link commercial structures to places with a store front, the California commercial burglary statute also includes mills, railroad cars, locked cargo containers, and mines.

In the alleged yoga class burglar's case, he stole unattended wallets while he was inside the yoga studios. Since yoga studios are business establishments, they're considered commercial structures. Newton allegedly gained entry to the yoga classes by pretending to be a student -- signing in with fake names -- and then swiping the wallets and credit cards without the owners' knowledge. So as a result of his actions, Newton was charged with felony commercial burglary.

Punishment for Commercial Burglary

Commercial burglary is considered second-degree burglary in California. In most cases, second degree burglary convictions will require the criminal to serve up to a year in a county jail.

However, like some other crimes, burglary is a "wobbler" offense. "Wobbler" offenses allow prosecutors to charge the accused with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the crime committed and their criminal history. Felony punishments differ from misdemeanors because felonies typically require more than one year in prison, while misdemeanors usually require less than one year in jail.

For Newton, he was charged with six counts of felony commercial burglary, so if he's convicted, he could be sentenced to a lengthy prison stint on top of his bad karma.

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