Assault is defined as unlawful conduct that has the potential to cause physical injury to another individual. An attack or assault involving caustic chemicals can have long-lasting effects on the victim. Provisions of California law acknowledge the harm that this type of assault could cause, which is why Penal Code 244 makes assault with caustic chemicals a felony crime punishable by a significant term of imprisonment. If you're being charged for violating California PC 244, the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney is ready to discuss your case. We understand the seriousness that prosecutors take in punishing these crimes, so we are ready to do our best to defend you. We serve the Los Angeles area.
Understanding Assault with Caustic Chemicals Under California Law
California law defines assault with a caustic chemical under provisions of Penal Code 244. PC 244 states that it is illegal to maliciously and willfully place, throw, or cause to be thrown/placed any flammable or corrosive substance, caustic element, or vitriol on another person to damage their flesh or in any other way deform their body. This section defines a flammable substance as gasoline, petroleum products, or any flammable liquid with a flashpoint of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. A caustic chemical is characterized as any element that can burn or corrode a living tissue.
This law specifically covers corrosive compounds, flammables, vitriol, and caustic chemicals. Vitriol is one type of caustic chemical. It explicitly includes sulfuric acid or similar chemicals. The courts have a broader scope and discretion to decide what qualifies as a toxic substance and what doesn't. Other types of caustic substances include chlorine, battery acid, or any other chemical used in pool maintenance, different cleaning compounds such as bleach, and any strong acid or strong alkaline chemical by itself or as a solution.
Provisions of California PC 244 also cover flammable chemicals and compounds. The flashpoint refers to the least temperature level at which vapor in a given liquid or solution ignites. If the flashpoint of a substance is low, it would ignite more easily. For instance, gasoline has a flashpoint of around -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This implies it is highly flammable and hence illegal under PC 244. Motor oil, on the other hand, does not burn until it hits 400°F. Therefore, it does not qualify as a flammable liquid under California PC 244. Most caustic and flammable compounds are often found in homes or are readily available for commercial use. Since the risks posed by these compounds can only be reduced considerably through the law, the California court system takes their use for criminal purposes seriously.
Elements of Assault With Caustic Chemicals
Elements of an offense are the factors that the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt for a defendant to be convicted of a certain crime. In general, all of the elements of the crime specified by law must be evident in an accusation for the defendant to be convicted legally. If certain factors are present while others are not, you may be convicted of a different crime. In general, a more serious crime includes more factors in its definition.
If you are found guilty of assault with a caustic chemical, the prosecution must prove that:
- You had malicious intentions and were aware of your actions
- You threw, put, or caused to place or throw the caustic chemical
- The substance in question was corrosive, flammable, vitriol- or caustic-chemical compound
- The caustic chemical caused harm to someone else's body
- You had the intention of injuring or disfiguring their body or flesh
Acting "willfully" implies doing something on purpose. If an individual comes into contact with a caustic chemical and gets hurt, although it was accidental or unintentional, then this does not fit the definition of assault with a caustic chemical as per California law. Acting maliciously, on the other hand, refers to committing an illegal act to defraud, hurt, annoy, or disturb another person.
To throw or place implies intentional physical actions that are widely understood to illustrate any type of physical activity that could cause injury to be noticed. The most significant factor here is intention. If you meant to inflict harm intentionally and deliberately, the action you took, whether it was placing, pouring, throwing, or something else, is usually not important to the court's ruling.
The concept of influencing something to be put or thrown could be difficult for you and others to grasp. When addressing this, we return to the idea that how an activity was carried out does not always change its legal significance. For example, if you filled a bucket with acid and then handed it to another individual, you are likely to be held responsible for violating PC 244 and not the other individual who received the bucket.
This is particularly true if the other individual was duped into the action. Most of these cases include simple accusations of physical misconduct. In these circumstances, causation remains clear. However, in more complex situations, it could be possible to build a solid legal defense for this, as it calls into question deliberate and malicious action.
According to the law, "another person" includes their personal space, physical body, and clothing. The best method to comprehend this is to imagine yourself in a car accident. In most cases, after an accident, it's rare to find an individual taking the blame for the crash. He or she would instead blame the other party for the accident. For an individual to sustain physical harm due to assault with caustic chemicals, the chemical generally should touch the purported victim’s body. With this in mind, the fact of the matter is usually obvious, and there is no reason to be concerned about this provision of the law.
The intent is one of the most important elements in showing the courts whether the charges against you are legitimate or not. You could injure another individual using caustic substances but not be convicted of the offense for a variety of reasons. These include:
- A physical altercation occurred, but you were unaware of the dangerous chemicals
- An accident took place, and an individual sustained physical bodily injury, yet it was not intentional
- The alleged victim intervened, which resulted in him or her being hurt by caustic chemicals
In addition, the perpetrator must have intended to disfigure or harm the victim's body or flesh. This raises many questions concerning whether the defendant was conscious of the harmful chemical and his/her decision-making ability during the execution of the offense. Pouring toxic chemicals on the floor to distract or evade pursuit, for example, would not fit the legal concept of California PC 244, even if the prosecution can show that the offender was engaged in a distinct crime.
Penalties For Assault With Caustic Chemicals
Assault with caustic chemicals is normally charged as a felony crime. Possible penalties include a four-year, three-year, or two-year sentence in prison and hefty cash fines of no more than $10,000. As with several other crimes, the judges have the discretion in determining the length of your prison sentence. Several mitigating factors could be present, resulting in a reduced sentence irrespective of whether there are additional counts that a court needs to evaluate in addition to the alleged incident.
Alternatively, rather than sending the offender to prison, the court could sentence him or her to felony probation. If you are sentenced to probation rather than prison, you will serve a maximum of 1 year in jail. However, you could still be fined and obliged to comply with numerous probation rules, such as:
- Meeting with your probation officer regularly
- Participating in community service/labor
- Settling restitution to victims
- Comply with any protection orders to stay away from and avoid harassing the victim
- Participation in group/individual therapy
Furthermore, after serving their prison sentence, defendants could be eligible for reduced sentences. If you are found guilty of this type of assault, in some cases, you could receive a sentence as short as a few months.
Note that, unlike several other assault offenses, PC 244 is not classified as a wobbler. This means that it cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor crime at any time. Having said that, you have the option of negotiating a plea deal with the prosecution to be charged with a lesser offense, such as a misdemeanor. Based on the conditions and specifics of the case, the conclusion of the plea bargain could be reasonable.
Common Defenses For Charges of Assault With Caustic Chemicals
If you're charged with assault with a caustic chemical, you should contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Only a competent lawyer can evaluate your case and develop a viable legal strategy. The defense attorney could be able to have your charges dropped or reduced for a variety of reasons, including evidence tampering, police misconduct, and so on. However, it is also critical to develop a strong legal defense that will call the elements of your allegations into question. Legal defenses can help you escape a sentence for violating PC 244 regulations. Common legal defenses include:
You Had No Intention Of Hurting Or Disfiguring The Purported Victim
To be found guilty of violating PC 244, an individual must have had an intention of either disfiguring or hurting the alleged complainant. This is related to, but not similar to, the element that the accused acted maliciously.
You Didn't Do Anything Malicious Or On Purpose
One of the key elements that the prosecution must prove for you to be found guilty under PC 244 is that you acted willfully or maliciously. If the defendant accidentally injured the alleged victim, then he or she will not be considered guilty of violating PC 244, even if he/she was criminally negligent or the alleged victim was badly hurt.
If there is any doubt about who threw or placed the dangerous substances on the accused victim, your attorney could invoke the mistaken identity strategy. In a relevant case, your lawyer could argue that the defendant lacked the appropriate mental condition to conduct the offense with which he/she is being charged.
It Was Not A Hazardous Chemical
Since the provisions of PC 244 only relate to certain substances and not any chemical that could hurt an individual, you could have a fact-specific defense available to you that applies to the composition and nature of the chemical component in your case.
You Acted In Self-Defense Or To Protect Another Individual Or People
Self-defense or acting on someone else's defense is a legal argument you could use to counter an assault with a caustic chemical charge. As far as California PC 244 charges are related, there are three prerequisites for the defense of another or self-defense to succeed. You must have the following for it to be effective:
- You reasonably believed that you or the individual you defended was in imminent danger of getting hurt, touched illegally, or being murdered
- You reasonably felt that you would require force to prevent this from happening
- You only used the necessary amount of force to stop the action
It should be noted that using pepper spray does not count as a violation of PC 244. It's used by many for self-defense and is allowed in California, so claiming someone infringed provisions of PC 244 under such circumstances is impossible. Your criminal lawyer could be able to demonstrate, through the testimonies of independent investigation and experts, that the substance used on the alleged victim does not fall under the law's classification of hazardous chemicals. If this is the situation, you could be found guilty of a lesser offense of battery rather than violating California PC 244.
Offenses Related to Assault with a Caustic Chemical
Assault with caustic chemicals offense is closely related to several California crimes. Some of these crimes are milder versions under assault and battery laws. As a result, they are often applied as plea deals to allow you to:
- Serve a shorter sentence
- Serve jail time rather than a prison term
- Increase the chances of probation instead of incarceration
The most common alternatives to an assault with caustic chemicals include:
Assault With A Deadly Weapon
PC 245a1 is closely related to California PC 244. However, there are two significant variations between the two. These are :
- Provisions of California PC 244 require that the hazardous chemical comes into direct touch with the alleged victim's body. However, even trying to harm or get into contact with another person could result in a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.
To be held responsible for assault with a dangerous weapon, the defendant must apply force that is likely to cause serious bodily harm. However, you could be charged with assault with a caustic chemical irrespective of whether the amount or type of chemical used is sufficient to cause significant bodily harm. Assault with a deadly weapon is classified as a wobbler crime. This means that the prosecution could charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony depending on elements such as:
- Whether or not the lethal weapon in question was a firearm
- Whether the wounded individual was a police officer or a public official.
- How badly the alleged victim was injured
If guilty of a felony crime, PC 245a1 could be penalized in the same way as an assault with a caustic chemical charge. However, if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, you would spend up to a year in jail and pay up to a $1,000 fine.
Although California PC 244 is often described as assault, it is a part of the battery offense. An assault crime is described under California PC 240 as an attempt or threat to use force or violence. A simple battery offense, on the other hand, is described as the actual use of force or violence. Therefore, even though PC 244 is sometimes referred to as an assault with a caustic chemical, it's a type of California Battery because it calls for the hazardous element to come into contact with the victim's body. If you break California PC 242 provisions, you would be put on trial for misdemeanor charges. It carries a maximum sentence of 6 months behind bars and hefty fines of no more than $2000.
California PC 240 outlines the offense of assault, also referred to as simple assault. It is defined as an illegal act to inflict harm on another person by the use of violence or force. To be found guilty of assault, you should have acted willingly and been able to apply force on the victim. You should also have been conscious that your violent action would lead any reasonable person to believe that force will be used against the other party.
Simple assault is another minor crime compared to California's assault with caustic chemicals. It is classified as a misdemeanor, with potential penalties including summary probation, hefty fines of no more than $1000, and a maximum sentence of 6 months behind bars.
Mayhem and Aggravated Mayhem
Mayhem is defined under California PC 203 as a malicious and unlawful practice of any of the following acts against another person:
- Removing a physical part of his/her body such as a limb
- Disfiguring, disabling, or rendering useless a body part in a way that is more than minor or temporary
- Disabling or severing their tongue
- Slitting their lip, ear, or nose
- Putting out the individual's eye or damaging their eyes in a way that leaves the eyes useless for normal sight purposes
California PC 205, on the other hand, defines aggravated mayhem as deliberately harming an individual that causes lasting disfigurement or impairment or depriving the individual of an organ or part of an organ. Mayhem is a slightly confusing term, and it is not as well known to many people as other serious crimes such as aggravated battery and torture. However, it is a serious offense for which the legislation imposes harsher penalties.
Mayhem always counts as a felony offense under California law. If you are convicted, you will face a maximum cash fine of $10,000 as well as 2, four, or 8 years of prison time. An aggravated mayhem offense is considered a felony that carries a life sentence behind bars with a chance of parole.
Battery Causing Serious Physical Injury
This is also known as aggravated battery. It occurs when one person intentionally touches another in an inappropriate or damaging manner, and the person who has been contacted suffers serious physical harm as a result. A violation of PC 243d is classified as a wobbler crime. This implies that the prosecution can choose whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges based on the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
If found guilty of a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year behind bars, a hefty fine of no more than $1,000, and summary probation. If convicted of a felony, the penalties include felony probation, 2, three, or 4 years in prison, and a hefty fine of $10,000. A felony conviction of violating PC 243d would also warrant the defendant to lose his or her right to own a firearm.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
If you're found guilty of assault with caustic chemicals under California PC 244, you risk facing harsh punishments and lengthy prison terms. However, if you partner with a competent criminal defense lawyer you could evade all of these consequences or be charged with a lesser crime. The attorney could be able to develop a solid defense that will result in the best possible result for the case. False allegations do occur in these kinds of situations, and a seasoned criminal defense attorney can assist you in avoiding a wrongful conviction. If you need assistance with your case, contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney at 424-333-0943. Our attorneys will provide you with a free consultation to ensure you better understand your case and how they could assist you. We serve the Los Angeles area.