If you are charged with the crime of assault with caustic chemicals, you risk enhanced penalties that are more severe than the punishment for simple assault. If you or your loved one is charged with assault with caustic chemicals under California Penal Code 244, hiring a competent defense attorney is crucial. Defense attorneys understand the complex judiciary system in California and can help craft a good defense strategy to help you get an acquittal. We at the California Criminal Lawyer Group are a boutique law firm with dedicated criminal defense lawyers who are ready to defend you. Although we cannot promise to have your case dismissed, our defense expertise might help you get reduced charges and lighter penalties.
What is the Legal Definition of “Assault with A Caustic Chemical” Under California Law?
California law defines "assault with a caustic chemical" as the act of throwing or placing maliciously and willfully, or lead someone else to put or throw a flammable substance, corrosive acid, Vitriol, or any type of caustic chemical on another person, with the deliberate intention to cause harm on flesh or body disfigurement.
Elements of PC 244
Often, victims of attacks involving flammable or caustic substances sustain severe burns and disfigurement. The laws in California details the crime under PC 244. If you are charged with “assault with caustic chemicals,” there are particular elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court. These include:
- You threw or placed a flammable or caustic substance on the alleged victim
- If you never did the crime yourself, you lead someone else to toss or put the acid, chemical, or flammable substance on the victim
- You performed the act maliciously and willfully
- You showed intent to inflict injuries or disfigure the alleged victim’s body
What Makes Up A “Caustic Chemical” Under PC 244?
A caustic chemical refers to a substance that corrodes or burns living tissue like skin and mucous membranes. These chemicals could constitute flammable and combustible substances. One type of caustic chemical is Vitriol, which entails sulfur and related elements.
According to PC 244, flammable substances are those with a flashpoint not exceeding 150 Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius. The term “flashpoint” is defined as the lowest temperature at which the vapor of a liquid can burn.
If the substance has a lower flashpoint, then it can ignite more quickly at a lower temperature. Examples of flammable and caustic substances are the gasoline that has a flashpoint of -40 degrees Fahrenheit, Sulphur, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), oil-based paints, kerosene, cleaning solvents, and mineral oil.
Note that the human body operates at 37 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is enough for vitriols like sulfuric acid to destroy human flesh or cause disfigurement.
What is the Legal Meaning Of “Willfully and Maliciously” In California?
You are considered to act “willfully” if your action was on purpose and “maliciously” if you:
- Perform an illegal act willfully
- Act with the intent to harm, annoy, or defraud another person
Is It Hard to Prove the Crime of PC 244?
Under California law, the court cannot sentence you for any crime until proven guilty. Proving that a defendant charged with assault is liable to using caustic chemicals is difficult due to some law requirements.
In California, the burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution's side and the accuser. Your work together with an attorney is building a defense that casts doubts against facts the prosecutor presents in court.
As mentioned above, there are elements in the crime of PC 244, like any other criminal offense. The prosecution must ensure you meet all these elements before the jury can decide on what sentence to impose on you.
Factors that could make California Penal Code 244 PC allegations hard to prove are:
Proving That You Acted Maliciously and Willfully
Here is an element hard to show as the law expects that you had control over the actions that resulted in a disfigured body or harm to your victim.
The challenge comes in where, for instance, you work in a chemical processing plant, and your colleague asks you to clear chemicals blocking their way. If you forget to transfer the substances to a safer position and the victim tripped over the elements, then you cannot get convicted for assault as you didn't act with malice. The court could convict you if you placed the corrosive substances strategically with intent, in a position that you knew the victim could incur injuries if they fell.
Proving That You Had Intentions to Inflict Injuries
The law in California requires the prosecution to prove that you showed intentions to cause harm to the victim. The challenge occurs where the accuser has to prove your motive was strong enough or wanted to harm them.
What to Do If Charged With “Assault with a Caustic Chemical”
Assault with a caustic chemical is a severe crime in California and attracts severe consequences if you get convicted. California law allows defendants to defend themselves against the allegations from accusers.
The courtroom is a scary environment for some people, and they could forget many details about the incident. It is recommended that you document all the details you know on your phone, notebook, and computer.
The details that are important to record include:
- The date and time when the incident occurred
- The location where the incident occurred. Indicate whether the place was a public or private entity, a house or apartment, or workplace
- Persons present when and where the incident happened. The persons present could serve as witnesses. The witnesses could side with you or the prosecution
- Things you talked about with or the actions you did in the presence of the witnesses
- Whether you acted to defend yourself. Document the exact reasons why you acted in self-defense
- The relationship between you and the accuser if any. The information could include the period you have known the plaintiff too
The other imperative thing to do is look for legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney. A professional defense lawyer is your go-to person because their focus area is defending accused people against their criminal charges. It is also advisable to hire an attorney who is experienced with assault cases within San Jose.
After you have chosen a reputable defense attorney, you ought to share your side of the story without leaving any details. Telling your lawyer the tiniest details is vital because this is the best way that they could offer quality advice like:
- Out-of-court settlement
- Taking a plea bargain. Here, you accept that you are guilty of the offense and the judge can lower your penalty
- Proceeding with your case through trial. Here, the jury bears the burden to determine whether you are innocent or guilty as charged
Punishment and Sentencing for PC 244
The crime of assault with a caustic chemical is considered a felony under California Penal Code 244 PC. Other lesser crimes like simple assault are under misdemeanor crime. Possible punishment for this crime is:
- Serving imprisonment in California State Prison for two, three, or four years
- Paying a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000
- Formal/ felony probation
If the court imposes formal probation, you will serve not more than one year in jail. The court also requires you to pay fines on various grounds like:
- Compensation to the victim
- Enrolling in a therapy institution
- Seeing the probation officer at agreed times
- Completing community service for a period the court stipulates
- Comply with a destructive order to keep off and not intimidate the victim
Possible Legal Defenses to California Penal Code 2344 PC
There are many defenses that you could use to prevent your conviction for violating Penal Code 244 or have your charges lessened. If you and your defense attorney decide not to take a plea bargain, you can build defense strategies against your charges, and these defenses are:
You Didn't Throw or Cause the Throwing of a Caustic Chemical on the Accuser
Proving that you placed a corrosive substance on the alleged victim is the prosecutor’s burden. You could have placed a caustic chemical on a shelf for future use, and it happens that the chemical spills on the accuser's body when they are picking another item from the shelf. Here, the court cannot convict you for violating PC 244.
If you didn't place the chemical on the accuser, your attorney could cast doubt on the accuser's allegations that you physically threw the chemical on their body.
You Never Acted Maliciously or Willfully
An imperative element in proving a defendant is guilty of assault with a caustic chemical is acting maliciously and willfully. If you did not act willfully, the court could not sentence you for the crime. That means you had no plans to cause harm to the accuser.
When arresting officers come to arrest a suspect, they follow the description the accuser provides. If the accuser is in hospital, the cops could arrest the wrong person. If you are charged with assault with a caustic chemical, and you are not the person who threw the substance to the plaintiff, your lawyer could introduce the defense on mistaken identity.
Suggesting a Victim Motivation
There are instances where two people who relate in real-time develop a grudge against each other. One party could accuse the other of assault if exterior factors motivate them. They could press charges in pursuit of mere revenge.
If this sounds like you, you and your attorney can cast doubt in court stating that the accuser is seeking revenge for other acts other than assault with a caustic chemical.
California law doesn’t need an accuser to suffer significant harm for them to file a lawsuit. While the injuries could be visible, the accuser could press charges which are not valid. The accuser could have sustained the injuries following another incident but claim you threw a caustic substance on them.
You Never Intended to Cause Harm or Disfigure Someone Else
Under California PC 244, you must have shown intent for the court to jail you for the crime as assault with a caustic chemical. If you had no intention to disfigure the accuser, your defense lawyer can argue in court to have your charges lessened or even lowered.
With this legal defense, you could act maliciously, but without intent to disfigure the defendant, and this is a fact that the majority often confuse. For instance, you work in a similar company with the accused where an argument between you two ensues.
In the event of pushing one another, you are angered and pick up a bucket with an unknown liquid and throw it at the plaintiff. The victim then burns from the chemicals inside the bucket. It is evident that even if you had no intent to cause disfigurement or burns to the accuser, you acted willfully and maliciously.
There are circumstances where you could throw a corrosive substance on the accuser accidentally. Before you can convince the court, your crime commission occurred on the grounds of an accident; you have to prove that you didn't act maliciously, willfully, or with intent.
Not A Caustic Chemical
California law under PC 244 stipulates precise substances that are considered caustic. Not all substances can harm or cause disfigurement on someone. The prosecution must prove that the substance you threw on the accuser is deemed to be caustic, Vitriol, or flammable under California Penal Code 244.
You can also seek help from an expert chemist to prove in favor of your defense that the substance you placed on the plaintiff does not fall under the classification of caustic chemicals and cannot cause burns on human skin.
You Acted to Defend Yourself or Other People
Self-defense is an extensive theory where the jury could excuse defendants for their charges if the wrongful act as performance to defend and protect life and possibility of you or your loved getting injured.
You and your lawyer could argue in court that you threw or caused a caustic to be thrown at the accuser because you were acting to defend yourself and other third-party persons. California law entails particular requisites for the acts of self-defense if charged with violating PC 244. These include:
- The fact that you faced the risk of getting harmed or killed
- The fact that your forceful act was necessary to avert the imminent danger
- The fact that you never used unnecessary force to stop the accuser from harming you or someone else
Violations of Your Rights
Prosecutors who use the evidence collected illegally against your charges violate your constitutional rights. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, you could introduce pre-trial motions and have the evidence rejected. If the evidence is successfully dismissed, you could win your freedom.
Lack of Enough Evidence
The law requires the prosecution to provide proof that is beyond all reasonable doubts. Your acquittal could happen if the prosecution builds a weak case against you and provides insufficient evidence.
Related Offenses To “Assault with a Caustic Chemical”
Many criminal offenses in California are linked to assault with a caustic chemical – PC 244. While some are lesser than Penal Code 244, others attract similar to or more severe penalties. You could use the minor offenses as a plea of a bargain to allow you:
- Go to jail rather than prison
- Go to jail for shorter periods
- Get probation sentences rather than imprisonment
California PC Section 242 - Simple Battery
The crimes of assault and battery are closely related in California. According to California PC 240, assault refers to threatening or attempting to use violence or force with intent to harm someone else. California PC 242 describes battery as the real act of using violence or force to harm someone else.
Assault is a form of a battery; for example, talking of assault with a caustic chemical, the crime is considered a batter if the substance touches the accuser’s body. In California, simple battery crime is regarded as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor crime is punishable by:
- Service jail time in a county jail for not more than six months
- Paying a fine of not more than $2,000
California PC Section 245(a)(1) - Assault with a Deadly Weapon (“ADW”)
The court could use California PC 245(a)(1) in the place of or together with California PC 244 as the two criminal offenses are closely related. While the Penal Code 245 and 244 are linked, there are not without differences. Significant differences include:
- With California PC 244, the chemical must touch the victim’s body; but for ADW, you are guilty if you attempt to cause harm or contact the victim
- With ADW, the use of force enough to cause severe harm is required; but for assault with a caustic chemical, you are guilt if any amount of the substance fell on the victim’s body
In California, the crime of assault with a deadly weapon is considered a wobbler offense. A wobbler offense is one that the court can choose to charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor crime. Factors that influence what wobbler offense the prosecution charges you with include:
- Whether you used a firearm during the assault incident
- The level of injuries the victim incurred
- Whether you assaulted a cop or an officer that the law protects
Possible punishment for felony ADW is similar to that of assault with a caustic chemical. The punishment includes:
- Paying a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000
- Serving a term of two, three, or four years in prison
- Formal or felony probation
- Compensation to the accuser
- Completing community service per court orders
- Complying with a restricting order to stay away from witnesses and the plaintiff
As a misdemeanor ADW, possible punishment includes paying a fine of $1,000 or serving jail time in a county jail for not more than once a year.
California PC Section 243(d) – Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Also known as aggravated battery, battery causing serious bodily injury happens when:
- You touch someone else in an offensive or harmful manner
- You used force that caused serious bodily injury
- Your victim did not attempt to defend themselves
Serious bodily injuries refer to injuries that impair someone’s physical condition. These injuries include bone fractures, concussions, loss of consciousness, and organ failure.
If found guilty for causing serious bodily injuries to someone else, the court could charge you with either a misdemeanor or wobbler crime hanging on the facts of your case and criminal record.
Penalties for a misdemeanor crime are not more than one year in jail and paying fines that the court imposes. You cannot also own a firearm for the next ten years after your sentencing. If the court finds you are guilty of a felony crime, you lose the privilege to own a firearm for life.
Contact a San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm Near Me
California takes the crime of assault with a caustic chemical with much seriousness. You need to hire an experienced defense lawyer in the unfortunate event you find yourself charged for a felony assault. If convicted for violating Penal Code 244, you could end up in California State Prison for many years or pay hefty fines.
With a reputable criminal defense lawyer, you could find loopholes within the prosecutor case and cast doubt. It is fortunate if the case gets dismissed, and if not, the court could lower your charges to a lesser crime.
If you or someone you know gets charged for PC 244 in San Jose, California, contact us at the San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm. We know that legal battles are energy-draining and daunting. Place your case in our able hands and rest assured that we will do everything to possibly have the best outcome for you.Please call to ask any questions or inquiries concerning your charges via the phone. To consult our lawyers, call us at 408-622-0204 today. Let us get started with your legal defense!