Assault with Caustic Chemicals

Under California criminal law, assault is divided into different categories. These include assault of a public official, simple assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with a caustic chemical. You assault someone else with a dangerous chemical when you willfully and maliciously throw, cause, or place a corrosive substance on another person to disfigure their body or cause them harm. 

Violation of Penal Code 244 is a felony and among all other forms of assault, it is the most severely punished. If you or your loved one is facing charges for this offense, it would be wise to seek legal help. At Darwish Law, we provide legal guidance and representation to clients facing charges in Santa Ana, CA, to ensure the best outcome for your case.

Overview of California Penal Code Section 244

You will face charges under CPC 244 if you maliciously put or pour a dangerous substance on another person. Under this statute, a caustic chemical is any substance that can cause damage to your body on contact. Caustic chemicals are acid or basic solutions that could cause severe long term side effects after coming into contact with a person's skin.

If a person swallows the substance, they could suffer damage to the internal organs since the substances are flammable. Corrosive chemicals are found in several workplaces and users should always handle them with extreme care to avoid accidents that may attract criminal charges. The following are some of the most commonly used caustic chemicals:

  • Cleaning solutions

  • Diesel

  • Gasoline

  • Oil-based paints

The chemicals classified as caustic in California can burn and destroy the flesh beyond repair or even cause death. Due to the intensity of situations resulting from chemical burns, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides several workplace guidelines in handling the substances to ensure all individuals' safety. If you fail to adhere to the regulations and cause injury to another person using the chemicals, you could face arrest and criminal charges under PC 244.

Before you face a conviction for assault with corrosive chemicals, the prosecution has the burden to prove the crime elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If one of the elements is missing or not clear, the charges against you may fail to stand. The specific elements of PC 244 are:

You Act Willfully and Maliciously

A willful act occurs when you do something on purpose. Therefore, if you were holding a dangerous chemical and accidentally came into contact with another person's skin, your actions do not meet the definition of assault with caustic chemicals.

Acting maliciously means that you act purposefully, intending to disturb, defraud, annoy, or injure another person. Before you are convicted for this crime, the prosecutor must prove that you deliberately put the dangerous substance on the body of the alleged victim.

You Placed, Threw, or Caused the Chemical to be put on Another Person's Body

Throwing or placing a chemical on another person indicates a physical act that results in bodily injury or harm. It doesn't matter how the act was carried out. The results may attract legal consequences. Sometimes you do not need to be the perpetrator of the crime. Causing a third party to pour a corrosive chemical on another person may cause you to be charged with assault with caustic chemicals.

In regards to this statute, another person’s body means their physical body, but also their clothing or their personal space.

You had an intention to Injure, Harm, or Disfigure the Alleged Victim

Your intent behind your actions is a significant element that the prosecutor needs to establish before you face a conviction under CPC 244. In your criminal case, the prosecutor has the burden to establish your intent to disfigure, injure, or cause harm to the alleged victim for you to face a conviction. Your knowledge of the presence of a corrosive chemical and your decision-making abilities during the act should be clear.

Sometimes, you can cause harm to another person using a corrosive chemical and not face criminal charges. For example:

  • You were carrying a dangerous chemical, and you fell, thus splashing the chemical on a colleague who was standing next to you,

  • A fight took place, and you did not know that there were dangerous chemicals around OR

  • The alleged victim acted in a way that caused them harm.

The prosecutor must prove all of the above elements for you to be convicted under CPC 244. Therefore, with guidance from an attorney, you can make it difficult to establish the factors and have a chance to fight the charges.

Legal Consequences of a Conviction Under Penal Code Section 244

Unlike simple assault, assault with corrosive chemicals is charged as a felony in California. Should you be convicted for the offense, you will face the following penalties:

  • A two to four-year prison sentence

  • Fines of up to $10,000

Instead of a prison sentence, the judge could sentence you to formal probation. Not all defendants charged under Penal Code Section 244 are privileged to receive probation instead of prison time. Therefore, you will require competent legal guidance to help you navigate the situation. If you are sentenced to formal probation, you will serve a maximum of one year. However, you may have to pay the court fines and be subjected to the following terms of probation:

  1. Regular check-ins with your probation officer. When you are sentenced to probation in California, a probation officer is selected to monitor your progress. During the period of probation, you are required to avoid committing other offenses. You will report your progress to the officer regularly as required by the court.

  2. Victim restitution. Restitution is the amount of money that a defendant convicted for a crime pays to the victim. Caustic chemicals are hazardous and could cause irreparable damage to the body of the victim. Their general outlook may also be impaired, and they will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. If you are sentenced to probation after a conviction under CPC 244, you may be subjected to victim restitution.

  3. Community service. During the period you are on probation, the court may require you to perform community service within your area.

  4. Therapy. Participation in individual or group therapy is one of the conditions you need to follow when you are sentenced to formal probation.

  5. Protective Order. If you intentionally injure or harm a person with corrosive chemicals, they may seek a protective order against you. This will ensure that you do not go near them or make any form of communication.

Failure to adhere to the above terms of formal probation could cause a revocation of your probation. If your probation is revoked, the original jail sentence will be imposed. Besides the court's legal penalties, an assault conviction will significantly impact your personal life and how you relate with other people. Therefore, guidance from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is crucial if you are in such a situation.

Legal Defenses Against Assault with Caustic Chemicals

When you or your loved one faces PC 244 charges, your attorney will use their criminal law knowledge to ensure you are not wrongfully convicted or charged with a crime more serious than your actions. Informing your attorney about the incident's factors and exact details is crucial to help them build a strong defense. Some of the strong legal defense strategies you can use in your case include:

You did not Act Willfully or Maliciously

Establishing that you acted maliciously and willfully is a crucial element required to prosecute you under PC 244. You can defend yourself against the charges by proving that you did not act to cause harm to the alleged victim. If your actions accidentally harmed the victim, you cannot be convicted under this statute.

You Lacked the Intent to Disfigure or Harm the Victim

For you to be found guilty of assault with a corrosive chemical, your intention to injure, harm, or annoy another person should be clear. If your ill intentions against the alleged victim are not clear, you cannot face a conviction for this crime.

You Acted in Self Defense or Defense of Other People

You can use self-defense or defense of others as an argument for assault with caustic chemicals charges. However, there are conditions under which you can use this defense. You must have:

  • Reasonably believed that you or other people were in danger of being hurt or even killed

  • You believed that force was required to prevent the action from taking place

  • You used necessary force to protect yourself or another person from oncoming harm

Mistaken Identity

Sometimes, the evidence on assault cases is based on the victim's testimony. When there is doubt in regards to the person who threw or placed the chemical on the victim's body, your attorney could present mistaken identity as a defense. If you are using this argument as a defense, you may need to establish your whereabouts when the crime took place.

The Chemical Involved in the Act was not Dangerous

Criminal charges under PC 244 apply to specific chemicals that are corrosive or highly flammable. When you use the facts on the chemical composition with help from expert analysis, you can argue that the substance you poured or threw does not fit under the category of caustic chemicals. In this case, you may face a conviction for a lesser offense.

Offenses Related to Assault with Corrosive Substances

There are several forms of assault under California law. Some offenses related to assault with caustic chemicals serve as a reduced sentence or increase your possibility of receiving probation instead of a prison sentence. Offenses Related to Assault with Caustic Chemicals are:

Simple Assault

You commit the crime of assault when you apply force to cause injury to another person. A conviction for assault in California is proven if the prosecutor can establish that:

  • You did something likely to produce force against another person.

  • You acted willfully.

  • You knew that your actions would cause a reasonable person to believe that the act would be forceful.

  • When you acted, you could apply force on the alleged victim.

Assault is charged under California Penal Code Section 240, and a conviction attracts a jail sentence not exceeding six months and $1,000 in fines. If you are battling charges for assault with caustic chemicals, you can strive for simple assault as a plea bargain. This is because simple assault is a misdemeanor that carries lesser penalties.

Sometimes, you can face charges and be convicted for assault even when no one suffered injury from your actions. However, with guidance from a competent attorney, you can fight these charges. Disputing your ability to use force on the alleged victim or lack of willful intent are some defenses you can use in your case.

Simple Battery

Under California criminal law, the battery is the unlawful touching of another person without their consent. Simple battery is charged under Penal Code Section 242 and has the following elements:

  1. You touched someone else. Any physical contact with another person satisfies this element. Even when you do not cause injury, slight touching could attract battery charges. For this offense, touching does not need to be direct. Using an object as a means of touch could be considered criminal.

  2. You acted willfully. You act willfully when you intentionally commit an act of battery. You can act willfully without an intention to cause injury.

  3. You acted in a harmful or offensive manner. To meet the requirements of the crime, it must be done offensively.

When the battery does not result in serious injury, it is charged as a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a jail sentence of six months and fines that do not exceed $2,000. When you are faced with PC 244 charges, you can seek to have your charges reduced to simple battery.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

You violate Penal Code Section 245 when you attack another person with a dangerous weapon or a means likely to cause serious bodily harm. The elements that must be proven before a conviction for this offense are:

  • You performed an act that was likely to result in the application of force.

  • You performed the act with a dangerous weapon or using force likely to produce injury.

  • You acted willfully

  • You could apply force with the weapon.

A physical injury on a victim is not necessary for you to be convicted under Penal Code Section 245. If the prosecutor can prove the above factors beyond a reasonable doubt, you will face a conviction. CPC 245 is a wobbler. A felony conviction for this offense is punishable by formal probation, up to a four-year prison sentence, and a fine of $10,000.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will face a jail sentence not exceeding one year and a $1,000 fine. If you committed a crime using a gun or against a peace officer, your sentence could be aggravated.

Besides, a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon will have severe negative immigration consequences. A non-citizen who commits this offense could be deported or rendered inadmissible.

Battery Causing Severe Bodily Injury

You commit an offense under California Penal Code Section 243(d) when you unlawfully, offensively touch a person and cause them serious bodily injury. Under this statute, a severe bodily injury is one that causes impairment or a physical condition. Some of the injuries that constitute severe bodily harm include broken bones, impairment of a body organ, or loss of consciousness.

Whether or not an injury is considered severe will be determined by the jury depending on a specific case. However, before securing a conviction, the prosecutor must prove the presence of serious injury.

Aggravated battery is a wobbler, and the offense could be a misdemeanor or a felony based on the severity of the injuries suffered and other factors of your case. When charged as a felony, the offense attracts a sentence of up to four years. On the other hand, a misdemeanor is punishable by a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 in fines.

Assault with caustic chemicals is severely punished under California law. However, you can avoid the penalties by working with an experienced attorney to secure a plea.

Seek Guidance from a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Pouring or placing a corrosive chemical on another person to cause harm could attract criminal charges under California Penal Code Section 244. You may face a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines if you face a conviction for assault with corrosive chemicals in California. However, facing an arrest will not necessarily prompt a conviction.

With guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney, you could negotiate a plea bargain to ensure you are convicted for lesser charges and penalties. Therefore, if you or your loved one face charges for assault with a caustic chemical, consulting with an attorney is crucial.

At Darwish Law, we will help you build a strong defense that could result in a favorable outcome in your criminal case. If you are facing charges in Santa Ana, CA, contact us today at 714-887-4810 for guidance on navigating the case.