ASSAULT WITH CAUSTIC CHEMICALS – CALIFORNIA PC 244
Assault with caustic chemicals is an extremely serious offense and should be treated as such. In the state of California assault with caustic chemicals is charged as a felony that has exceedingly harsh consequences.
Under California PC 244, in order for someone to be found guilty of committing an assault with caustic chemicals, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
Elements of Assault with Caustic Chemicals
- A person placed or threw, or caused to be placed or thrown, acid or a flammable substance upon the person of the alleged victim,
- The person acted willfully and maliciously, and
- The person acted with the intent to injure or disfigure the body of the alleged victim.
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To be successfully convicted of assault with caustic chemicals under California Penal Code section 244 several aspects must be present. The elements in the Code are defined and explained as follows:
Caustic Chemicals - The chemicals referred to under Penal Code 244 as “caustic chemicals” include sulfuric acid, nitric acid, gasoline, bleach, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, or flammable liquids with a flashpoint of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Willfully – What the code means by “willfully” is that the person did the act willingly or on purpose.
Maliciously – The element of “malice” is met when a person intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to disturb, defraud, annoy, or injure someone else.
Here is an example that will clarify: Jenn and Hannah are in chemistry lab at school. Jenn decides to add an ingredient to the beaker, however, she added the chemicals in the wrong order. Hannah leans over the beaker to investigate as to what went wrong and the chemical gasses pour over onto her face badly injuring her. Under Penal Code section 244 assault with caustic chemicals, this would not rise to the level of assault with caustic chemicals because of the fact that this was an accident. Jenn’s intentions were not to cause bodily harm to Hannah; Jenn accidently added the ingredients improperly which resulted in a chemical gas with which Hannah was injured. They were simply involved in an unfortunate accident involving dangerous chemicals. Neither willful nor malicious intent are present in this situation.
An example that does illustrate the intent and malice in this crime is this: Daniel is dating Troy’s ex-girlfriend. Daniel is unhappy with the fact that Troy is still in his girlfriend’s life so he asks Troy to meet him at the park to have a discussion. Troy and Daniel talk for a little while when Daniel becomes angry. He reaches into his car and grabs a canister of gasoline pouring it all over Troy. Daniel tries to light a match but Troy gets away. This is an example of assault with a caustic chemical Penal Code section 244. Daniel intentionally or purposely threw gasoline on Troy. Daniel’s intentions were malicious because he unlawfully intended to inflict great bodily harm whether or not he was successful.
If either of the above elements is found lacking, there cannot be a conviction of assault with caustic chemicals under California Penal Code section 244. Be aware, however, that the crime can be a simple assault or another variation of the charge of assault.
Assault With Caustic Chemicals vs. Assault With a Deadly Weapon (ADW)
How does assault with caustic chemicals compare to assault with a deadly weapon? Let us be clear that assault with caustic chemicals does NOT require that there be bodily injury. There must merely be proof that the intent to cause injury existed at the time of the incident. Herein lies the difference between the two. While assault with a deadly weapon requires the existence of great bodily harm, for assault with caustic chemicals to exist there need not be bodily injury. All that is needed is for the chemical to intentionally and maliciously come into contact with the alleged victim's person. This is true even if the amount of chemical that comes into contact with the alleged victim is insufficient to cause substantial harm. The injuries are not pertinent; the intention to injure is the focus.
Penalties For Assault With Caustic Chemicals
If you are charged with a violation of Penal Code section 244 you are being charged with a felony. It is a 2,3,4 crime which means that if you are convicted it carries a possibility of two years in state prison, three years in state prison, or four years in state prison, depending upon the discretion of the prosecution and the specifics of the case. Additionally, you may receive a fine of maximum of $10,000. Another potential penalty is formal probation.
Defenses For Assault With Caustic Chemicals
There are many avenues that the Criminal Law Office of Leah Legal can explore in developing a defense for an assault with caustic chemicals case. Obviously every case is different and the specific defense adopted will be tailored to your needs as a client. Your attorneyl will break down the specifics of your case and build a defense based on the facts and/or lack thereof. However, just to give you a general idea of what to expect when creating a defense with your attorney, common aspects to be present in a successful legal defense for such a case include:
Absence of Willful and Malicious Intent - Since the most important element of assault with caustic chemical is that the act must be committed willfully and maliciously, you may have a solid defense if these aspects are missing. If you did not willfully or maliciously bring a dangerous chemical into contact with the alleged victim you are not guilty. You must have willfully and maliciously utilized the dangerous chemical and brought it into contact with the alleged victim. Regardless of the seriousness of the injury resulting from the chemical, regardless of the presence of negligence or lack thereof, if you were not willfully malicious in your actions you cannot be convicted for assault with a caustic chemical under Penal Code section 244.
No Intent to Injure or Disfigure - Similar to the first defense of there being no willful or malicious intent, if you didn’t intend to cause the alleged victim bodily harm you are not guilty under Penal Code section 244 for assault with a caustic chemical. You cannot be convicted of assault with caustic chemicals if you did not intend to cause injury or disfigurement with a dangerous chemical.
Self-Defense/Defense of Others - If you did, in fact, willfully and maliciously intend to cause harm to another person by using a dangerous chemical, however you did so under the reasonable belief that your life or the life of someone else was in danger, or that you or someone else were in danger of being seriously injured in an unlawful manner, you cannot be found not guilty of assault with caustic chemicals under California's Penal Code section 244. Here is an example of self-defense: Sam and Chris are cleaning the house. Chris accuses Sam of stealing from him and an argument ensues. Chris reaches for a baseball bat in the corner and swings it at Sam. Sam grabs a bottle of bleach from under the sink and pours it on Chris badly injuring him. Sam is not guilty of assault with a caustic chemical because his actions were justified and necessary within the parameters of self-defense. Chris attacked Sam with a bat and Sam defended himself with bleach.
Leah Legal Can Help!!!
If you or a loved one has any questions regarding the crime of assault with caustic chemicals or any of the assault crimes, please do not hesitate to call us. The Criminal Law Office of Leah Legal deals with cases such as these on a daily basis and understands that being charged in the criminal courts can have much greater and more far-reaching and devastating effects on your life than those laid out in the Penal Code. Call us so that you won’t have to face the charges alone.