It is an offense to merely assault someone else in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills simply. And it is even a more severe offense to assault another person using any form of caustic substances. If you assault another party using caustic components, you risk going to prison for a long time. You also risk paying hefty fines and victim restitution. However, before this happens, you are given a chance to defend yourself since your actions may have been accidental, or it could be that you were acting out of self-defense or defending another person.
For you to defend yourself successfully and stand a chance of winning these charges, you need an expert criminal defense attorney by your side. The attorney will help you tell your side of the story and convince the jury to agree to it by arguing a variety of legal defenses effectively. Therefore, as soon as you are arrested, ensure you get hold of a lawyer to represent you. Attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin are readily available to help you with your case. We advise against representing yourself at trial since you may not argue out these defenses as effectively as a skilled lawyer would. This article focuses on what California law says about an assault with a caustic chemical.
What Assault With Caustic Chemical Means Legally
Penal Code (PC) 244 of the California statutes describes the crime of assaulting someone with a caustic chemical. It legally defines it as willfully & maliciously throwing or placing, or otherwise causing to be thrown/placed any dangerous chemicals, a corrosive component, vitriol, or flammable element onto another party, intending to hurt that party’s flesh or to disfigure their body.
Definition of Different Terms
Here is the definition of the different terms that are used to define the crime of assault using caustic chemicals.
A flammable matter, as used to describe this offense means petroleum products, any flammable liquid that has a flashpoint of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, or gasoline. A flashpoint refers to the least temperature level where the vapor in a liquid could ignite. The least the flashpoint of a liquid is, the more simply the liquid ignites.
Caustic chemicals, on the contrary, generally refer to elements that are capable of corroding or burning the living tissues. Vitriol is a kind of caustic component. It refers categorically to sulfuric acid, together with the compounds related to it.
Whether or not a specific component in a given case falls under the categories mentioned under Penal Code 244 law on assaulting someone using caustic chemicals is a question that will be answered by the jury or judge during a trial.
When a person does a given act on purpose, that person will be said to have behaved or acted willfully. And, when someone does an unwarranted act intentionally or does act with the illegal intent to annoy, hurt, defraud, or disturb the other party, that person will be said to have acted maliciously.
Valid Defenses to Violating the Law on Assault with a Caustic Chemical
A lot of legal defenses may help you to avoid being convicted of Penal Code 244. The most commonly used ones include:
You Didn’t Act Maliciously, Neither Were Your Actions Willful.
One of the essential requirements for PC 244 to qualify as a crime is that you need to have acted willfully & maliciously. In case the victim in question was hurt due to an accident, then you should not be convicted of PC 244. Even if your acts exhibited criminal negligence or the victim in question was severely harmed; still, you shouldn’t be convicted if you didn’t act maliciously/willfully.
You Didn’t Intend to Harm or Otherwise Disfigure the Alleged Victim.
For the court to find you guilty under PC 244, the prosecutor must have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that you had the intent to disfigure/hurt the involved victim. This relates to, but it’s not quite similar to the element that you acted maliciously.
You Were Only Defending Yourself or You Were Defending Another Person
Defense of someone else or self-defense is another valid defense to Penal Code 244 charges. If a person is attempting to harm you in any way and he/she is using a given kind of deadly force against you, you are allowed to apply the same kind of deadly force the person is using to defend yourself. However, we have three requirements that make the defense of others or self-defense valid under this penal code. They include:
- You had reasonably believed that you or the person you defended was facing an impending risk of being touched illegally, harmed, or killed,
- You had reasonably believed that you needed force to put a stop to the danger.
- You used not much force than what was mandatory to stop the danger from happening.
For instance, if a person was attempting to stab you using a knife, that is, without a doubt, deadly force. If you threw or placed acid on the person, then you could argue the legal defense of self-defense. You could say that you were trying to defend yourself, so you are not acutely wounded.
However, consider this. If a person was attempting to hit you and then you threw a corrosive component like acid at him/her, this might be taking it too far. This scenario might not meet the reasonable standards required in the legal defense of self-defense. Placing a caustic chemical on another person is a severe offense, and you would need to have a reasonable justification for doing so.
As you use this defense, you should also keep in mind that the prosecution, jury, and judge will be asking themselves questions like:
- Why you had the caustic chemical in your possession, to begin with,
- Why you were walking around freely with the chemical, and
- If you thought that someone was going to hurt you, why didn’t you report to law enforcement officers and have things handled the correct way?
Thus, these are a few of the aspects that would undoubtedly be deliberated on in your case. If you are charged with PC 244, throwing or placing a corrosive chemical on someone else, you will need to speak with a qualified lawyer and be truthful with them. Provide them with all the details and facts surrounding your charges.
These details and facts include your arrest as well as your history with the supposed victim. The reason you should do this is that your lawyer will be your advocate and is the one to try and assist you in determining what the ideal moves to make towards winning your case. If you do not provide them with all the details relating to your case and you are not entirely honest with them, they won’t have the necessary information, which means they may not be able to fully and legally represent you.
In case the actual identity of the individual that placed or threw a caustic chemical on the supposed victim is questionable, your defense attorney can argue the mistaken identity legal defense. In a suitable scenario, your lawyer could argue that you didn’t possess the required mental state to be convicted of the offense.
The Chemical Was Not Caustic
Since PC 244 only applies to particular substances, and not merely any chemical that can harm someone, there might be defenses that are fact-specific, which you can apply, that relate to the chemical composition of the component in question.
Your lawyer may be capable of proving potentially through testimony from an expert chemist and independent analysis that the element you threw or placed on the victim doesn’t fall under the classification of caustic substances outlined under the law. If this happens, you may be convicted of a lesser crime of battery and not for violating PC 244.
Penalties for Penal Code 244
Unlike PC 240, simple assault, the crime of assaulting someone with a caustic chemical is always prosecuted as a felony. Its potential consequences include a state prison sentence of four, three, or two years and a fine that does not exceed $10000. Or, rather than being imprisoned, the court can opt to sentence you to formal probation.
When your sentence involves probation, you will need to serve at the maximum, one year in jail. However, you can still be required to pay the stipulated amount of fine, and you might also be subject to various probationary conditions, for example:
- Paying victim restitution
- Meeting routinely with the officer in charge of your probation sentence.
- Participating in a group or in-person therapy
- Doing community labor or community service.
- Complying with a restraining order to keep your distance from and stop harassing the victim
Several other offenses are closely linked to the PC 244 crime of assault using a caustic chemical. A few of these crimes are the less severe versions of assault & battery laws. Therefore, they often can be used during plea bargaining to allow the defendant to:
- Serve a reduced sentence,
- Serve time in jail rather than in prison, or
- Raise the chances of facing a probation sentence instead of going to prison or jail
The most commonly known offenses you can be charged with apart from or alongside Penal Code 244 charges include:
Simple Battery as Per PC 242
Although the crime under Penal Code 244 is referred to as assault, it’s, in reality, a kind of a battery offense. As per PC 240, the offense of assault describes trying to or threatening to apply force/violence against someone else. On the contrary, PC 242 battery is the real application of force/violence.
As our lawyers explain, PC 244 can be referred to as assault with a caustic chemical. However, since the corrosive chemical must come in actual contact with the body of the involved victim, it is, in reality, a type of battery under California law.
PC 242 is charged as a misdemeanor whose punishment includes a period not exceeding six months in jail and a fine that does not exceed $2000.
PC 245a1 Assault With a Deadly Weapon
Assault with a caustic chemical is closely linked to PC 245a1 crime of assaulting someone else using a deadly weapon. But we have two major aspects that differentiate PC 244 from PC 245a1. These are:
- When it comes to assault with a caustic chemical, the chemical must touch another’s body party. But, under assault with a deadly weapon law, a person can be convicted merely by trying to hurt or touch someone else.
- For you to be sentenced for committing assault with a deadly weapon, you must have applied force that’s most likely to cause significant physical injury. But one can be sentenced for committing assault with a caustic chemical even if that chemical isn’t of an amount or a type that can produce severe harm.
Assault with a deadly weapon is prosecuted as a wobbler crime. This means that the defendant can face either a felony or misdemeanor charges based on different factors like:
- The type of weapon used to commit the crime. For instance, was it a firearm or not?
- How severely the involved victim was hurt
- The victim’s profession. For example, was he or she an officer of the law or any other public official protected similarly as law enforcement officers?
If you’re convicted of a felony, PC 245a1 is punished in a similar way as PC 244. But if it’s a misdemeanor, you will face a potential punishment of a period not exceeding one year in jail and a fine that does not exceed $1000.
Hire a Skilled Assault & Battery Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or a person you know is facing assault with a caustic chemical charge in Los Angeles or Beverly Hills, contact our skilled criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin for a consultation. Our lawyers will counsel you about your possible defenses, the need for an in-depth independent investigation, motion practice, plea bargaining, and the potential outcome for your case. Since every case has facts that are only specific to it, we evaluate every client’s situation independently, considering the client’s life circumstances as well as their objectives for the legal representation. We have experience in providing assertive pre-court legal representation to try to lower or dismiss even severe felony charges like an assault with a caustic chemical before your case is taken to court. Call us at 310-273-9600 for quick and best possible results.