Assault is considered as criminal conduct that could harm another person. With that said, a lot of people undergo various forms of assault while others are accused of assault. An assault or attack involving caustic chemicals can cause life-changing harm to the victim. California legislature recognizes the damage that can be done by this form of assault, which is why they have enacted PC 244, where assault with caustic chemicals is a felony punishable with a lengthy prison sentence. If you are facing charges of violating PC 244, the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm is available to discuss your case. We have explained the information below to help defendants under PC 244 understand this form of assault.

Legal Definition of Assault with Caustic Chemicals

Under California PC 244, assault with caustic chemicals is defined as:

  • Intentional or malicious
  • Placing, hurling, or causing to be thrown or placed
  • Any flammable, corrosive or caustic chemical
  • Onto another individual
  • With the plans to wound or disfigure the person

Definition of Caustic Chemicals under PC 244

A chemical is any substance that has been artificially prepared, purified, or both, while caustic chemicals are substances that, through chemical action, can cause burns or corrode when they get into contact with the body tissues. Examples of these chemicals in California is vitriol, petrol, and other fuel products. Vitriol is corrosive because it contains acids that contain sulfur. Petrol and petroleum products, on the other hand, are considered flammable substances as per PC 244. They have a low boiling point, which makes the liquid-vapor of fuel products highly flammable. Any flammable substance with a flashpoint of 150 degrees and above is not considered highly flammable because the temperature required to ignite the vapor is high. 

People rely on some of the caustic chemicals in daily life. It is essential to learn to use these chemical substances with a lot of caution, especially in the workplace, to avoid injuries that might result in lawsuits against the employer. Some of the most common caustic chemicals in the workplace include sulfuric acid, chromic acid, hydrofluoric, hydrochloric acid, and nitric acid. If you rely on these chemicals, review the rules on their usage set out by OSHA to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Gasoline, diesel, and certain oil-based paints are commonly used for domestic purposes.

You should be very careful about all these substances that have been mentioned under caustic chemicals. This is because not only can exposure to your living tissues cause skin tissue damage, if not treated in time, they can cause internal organ damage. Seek medical attention immediately after a caustic chemical burn.

Elements the Prosecution must prove in PC 244 Charges

In California, to be charged for assault with caustic or corrosive chemicals, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  1. You Acted Willfully or Maliciously 

The prosecuting party must show the court that the act was not an accident. If you willfully hurled or placed the corrosive chemical to the victim with the purpose of annoying, defrauding, or injure them, then you can be charged with violation of PC 244. The prosecution attorney will, however, need proof to show that you intentionally committed the wrongful act, knowing it will harm another person. When proving this element, the prosecution brings eyewitnesses or video footage to show you did the deed on purpose or maliciously. An act done with malice is not necessarily intended to wound or cause disfigurement to another person. It might also be designed to annoy or disturb a person.

  1. You Threw, Placed, Caused to be Hurled or Placed Caustic Chemicals

The prosecution attorney must also demonstrate that there was a physical movement by the defendant, which resulted in the throwing or placing of caustic chemicals on the victim’s body. Even if you didn’t do it yourself, if you caused the hurling or putting the corrosive substance without knowing, if at all the prosecution can prove that you had the intention to injure the accuser, then you will be convicted of the felony. The caustic substance must also get into contact with the human body.

  1. You had the Intention to Injure or Wound another Person

You cannot be convicted of assault with caustic chemicals if you slip and the chemical spills to the accuser or the victim by accident. The conduct of the offender must contain the intent or purpose to injure the flesh or disfigure the victim’s body.

If the prosecution can prove the above elements, you are likely to be convicted of the criminal charge. But if you were found planning to assault someone with caustic chemicals, you can only be sentenced under simple assault.

Penalties for Assault with Caustic Chemicals

Violation of PC 244 is a felony. The potential penalties for a conviction under this charge include:

  • State imprisonment for 24, 36, or 48 months
  • A fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars

Instead of serving the prison sentence, the judge can sentence you to formal probation. If probation is granted, you might be expected to serve up to twelve months in county jail, pay a fine and then meet the following terms and conditions:

  • Consistent appointments with a correctional officer
  • Payment of restitution fee to the victim for hardship
  • Taking part in group or individual therapy
  • Engage in community service activities
  • Compliance with the restraining order to not get in touch with the victim

These penalties can affect your life adversely, which is why you should do anything in your position to prevent a conviction. But to do that, your attorney needs to prove your innocence.

Legal Defenses to Assault with Caustic Chemicals

The advantage of retaining the services of an attorney is that they protect you from wrongful convictions and other charges that are not warranted. But to fight the charges well, you must be willing to share all the information surrounding the crime, including the date it happened, the chemical used for the assault, and the allegations by the prosecutor. With this kind of information, your defense attorney can build a strong defense. Some of the defenses strategies you can use for the case include:

You Acted on Self-Defense or Defense of Others

If your attorney can argue that you acted that way to protect yourself or a different person, then you cannot be convicted under PC 244. You will need evidence to prove that you were reacting to the impending danger of being killed, wounded, or touched inappropriately by the attacker who is the victim. The ruling will be passed as self-defense or defense of others if:

  • You had reasonable believe you were in imminent danger
  • You had a justifiable belief that force was needed to prevent the threat from occurring
  • You didn’t use excessive force more than necessary to prevent the threat

In this case of assault with caustic chemicals, you must prove you used the corrosive chemicals to save your life or that of another person.

Your Actions were not willful

If you as the offender were not acting with intent when you hurled, placed, or caused to throw or put a caustic chemical on the victim’s body, then you are not guilty of the crime. You will be set free if the caustic chemical caused severe bodily harm to another person under the following circumstances:

  • It was an accident and no party intended or purposed to injure the other
  • The physical conflict occurred where you, as the defendant, was not aware of the presence of caustic chemicals in the surroundings
  • A move by the victim or casualty is what caused the injuries by the caustic chemicals

You had no Intent to Harm, the Claimant

This defense and that of not acting willfully are related. The difference is that if you didn’t intend to wound or disfigure the claimant, even if you acted maliciously, you cannot be convicted of the crime. So, if you had plans to annoy or disturb the victim, but you were not planning to injure them, you will be set free.

The Allegations by the Defendant are Untrue

Under PC 240, it is not a must for one to be convicted of assault only where there are visible injuries. If one can press charges without sustaining actual injuries, it means people can falsify claims out of jealousy, anger, or revenge. If the evidence against you in court is light, your attorney can claim that you are falsely accused.

Not a Caustic Chemical

PC 244 focuses only on specific chemicals, not any other chemical that is capable of harming someone. If you are being charged with a violation of PC 244, you can defend yourself by arguing that the chemical you are accused of using is not caustic. When using this defense, you must bring an expert witness in court so that they can prove that the chemical composition in the substance you are alleged to have used doesn’t fall under the group of caustic chemicals defined by PC 244. If you can successfully prove that the PC 244 charge will be reduced to a battery that has lesser penalties.

Mistaken Identity

If the victim is not very sure of the identity of the person who hurled or placed the caustic chemical, you can argue mistaken identity. You can claim that you did not possess the necessary mental state required to violate PC 244.

Assault with Caustic Chemicals and Other Related Offenses 

Many charges are closely related to PC 244. Some of these offenses are less serious than assault with caustic chemicals and can be used to reduce your jail sentence, get jail sentence in place of a prison sentence, and get an opportunity to be granted probation in place of incarceration. Some of the offenses commonly related to PC 244 include:

  1. Simple Battery

Despite PC 244 being considered as a form of assault, it is a crime of battery. As per PC 240, assault is explained as an attempt or threat to use force, while PC 242 describes battery as the actual infliction of force or harm. Comparing the two statutes, you realize that assault is an act that might result in physical injury, while the simple battery is real brutality at another party. PC 244, therefore, becomes related to a simple battery because the caustic or flammable chemical is required to get into contact with the bodily tissues of the victim. The same applies to battery because physical contact with the victim is compulsory.

When proving simple battery, the prosecuting party must show:

  • The offender intentionally touches another individual offensively or in a harmful manner
  • The offender was not acting in self-defense or the protection of others

A straightforward touch can get you in trouble with the battery law if it is done angrily or rudely. Even touching someone’s clothes crudely is a violation of PC 242. The touch doesn't need to result in pain or cause harm for you to be convicted. Touching someone with an object that is closely connected to you can also be considered as a battery. 

The crime of simple battery is a misdemeanor, and the penalties for a conviction are as follows:

  • No more than one hundred and eighty days incarceration in jail
  • A two thousand dollars fine

In spite of being charged with this crime, you can avoid conviction by building a proper defense. You can hold the position that you were using force to protect yourself or a different person from imminent danger that was posed by the victim. Also, if the physical contact was not intended, you can argue that you did not act willfully. That will serve as a good defense because battery requires the offender to have actions to be willful.

If you are a parent who was disciplining their child and you are charged with battery, you can contest that you were using reasonable force to discipline the kids. However, if the energy in question is deemed unreasonable, you might be found guilty of battery.

  1. Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW)

The offense is codified under PC 245 (a) (1). It occurs where an offender attacks with a lethal weapon other than a firearm. The charge is different from assault with caustic chemicals in two ways:

  • PC 244 requires the corrosive or flammable chemicals to have physical contact with the living tissue of the victim for an offender to be guilty. However, in an assault with a deadly weapon, you are guilty of attempting or threatening to injure or touch someone with a lethal weapon other than a gun
  • In PC 244, a defendant will be convicted even if the type and amount of caustic substance in question are not harmful, whereas, an assault with a deadly weapon, the offender must have used force or energy that could result in life-threatening or fatal injuries

Assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler, and it is at the discretion of the prosecuting party to either charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. The potential penalties for violating this statute are dependent on the following circumstances:

  • The type of lethal weapon or tool used to commit the alleged assault
  • Whether the suspected claimant suffered any injuries and if yes, and how serious the injuries are
  • Whether the claimant or the victim of the alleged assault was a firefighter, police officer or a protected person,

The penalties for assault with a deadly weapon charged as a felony are similar to those of assault with caustic chemicals. The penalties include:

  • 24, 36, or 48 months in a state prison
  • Formal probation
  • A one thousand dollar fine

When charged a misdemeanor, a conviction attracts the following consequences:

  • Summary probation
  • Three hundred and sixty-five days in jail
  • And a fine of no more than a thousand dollars

The penalties imposed on people convicted of assault with a deadly weapon are very harsh. But you can beat the charges by applying the following legal defense:

  • You did not make use of the deadly weapon
  • You were acting in self-protection or protection of other persons
  • You were not acting with the required intent or willfully
  • You are falsely accused
  1. California Assault

PC 240 defines assault as an attempt to injure another person. Assault is similar to PC 244 in some of the elements the prosecution must prove. To be convicted under PC 240, the prosecution must prove:

  • You committed an act that could directly result in the use of energy against another person
  • You did so willfully
  • The act would make a reasonable person believe you were going to apply the force
  • You had actual ability to use force on the claimant

The application of energy, in this case, is rude or offensive touching, and it doesn't need to result in harm or injuries. When the prosecution manages to convince the court that you are guilty successfully, the potential punishment includes:

  • One thousand dollars in fine
  • And one hundred and eighty days in jail

You can avoid these penalties by bringing up the following defenses:

  • You lacked actual ability to inflict the injuries
  • You were falsely accused
  • You were acting in self-protection and defense of others
  1. Mayhem and Aggravated Mayhem

California PC 203 and 205 focuses on attacks that cause permanent disfigurement or disability. They are different from other forms of assault because their focus is on the degree of injuries. They are related to assault with caustic chemicals because mayhem and aggravated mayhem causes disfigurement the same as some caustic chemicals when they get into contact with living tissues. If the injuries caused by the corrosive chemical are very severe and life-threatening, then you might also be charged for violating PC 203 or PC 205.

When proving the defendant is guilty under PC 203, the prosecutor must prove the following points:

  • You unlawfully removed the victim’s body part
  • You caused more than temporary disability on the claimant
  • You caused permanent disfigurement on the victim
  • Permanently damaged the claimant’s eye
  • Slit someone’s lip or nose

On the other hand, to be convicted with aggravated mayhem, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You maliciously disfigured or disabled someone permanently
  • You acted with the intentions to maim or disfigure the victim permanently
  • Your actions portrayed extreme unresponsiveness to the physical and psychological well-being of the victim

If convicted under PC 203, the punishment includes 96 months incarceration, restitution, and hefty fines. A conviction under PC 205, on the other hand, can result in life imprisonment with the possibility of a conditional release.

To defend yourself against a mayhem charge, you can argue that your actions were unintentional or accidental. Also, because people are allowed to use force to protect themselves and others when they reasonably believe their life or that of another person is in danger, you can argue that you seriously maimed the victim in self-defense.

Everyday Things you should know About Assault with Caustic Chemicals

It is important to note that you cannot accuse someone of violating PC 244 for using pepper spray. It is used for self-defense, and it’s legal in California, so it’s impossible to allege someone violated PC 244 in such a case.

If you are wondering what the statute of limitations for PC 244 is, the answer is thirty-six months after the arrest of the offender. It is advisable to file the charges immediately after the assault has occurred. People accused of violating PC 244 also end up being charged with battery in the long run. It means you might end up being convicted of two charges, which might damage your criminal record forever. Having an excellent criminal defense attorney is advantageous because it can help prevent any unwarranted charges and convictions.

Find a Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

A felony conviction for assault with caustic chemicals can result in incarceration and massive fines. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we are here to ensure that you get a sentence that you are warranted. Call us today at 714-740-7848 to speak to one of our attorneys. We will counsel you on the possible legal defenses, taking a plea bargain, and the eventual outcome of your case.