Under California Law, assault involves any activity that could cause the application of force against another person. If you use a flammable or caustic chemical to commit this crime, you will be charged with assault with a caustic chemical under California Penal Code 244. You will be convicted under this statute if the prosecution can prove that you threw or placed a flammable substance on a victim intending to injure them.

Assault with caustic chemicals has the potential to cause severe injury or disfigurement. For this reason, the court is harsh when prosecuting the crime. A conviction under PC 244 will attract severe legal and collateral consequences. Whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges, your conviction will result in incarceration and hefty fines.

Therefore, you will require expert legal guidance to navigate your case if you face charges under this statute in Chula Vista, CA. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we will help you understand your charges and build a solid defense to beat the charge and secure a favorable outcome.

An Overview of California Penal Code 244

You will be arrested and charged under California Penal Code 244 if you place or throw a flammable substance onto another person’s body to injure or disfigure them. Assault with a caustic chemical is a serious offense and has the following elements:

You Placed or Threw a Caustic Chemical on Another Person

Under PC 244, a caustic chemical is any substance that can cause injury or damage when exposed to the body tissues. Caustic chemicals could be acids or bases that cause permanent damage. These chemicals can also cause serious injury to internal organs when ingested. Any substance with a flashpoint of 150 degrees or less is considered flammable.

Caustic chemicals are found in various places. Due to the severity of the effects caused by these chemicals, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides regulations on the purchase and storage of these substances. Before you are convicted of assault with a flammable substance. 

Throwing something on someone means that you placed the substance on the victim’s body, clothes, or personal space. The prosecution must prove that the alleged sub-st stance meets the caustic chemical criteria.

Your Actions Were Willful And Malicious

You are considered willful when you intentionally place or cause a flammable substance to be thrown onto another person. For example, if you carry a bucket full of acid and another person bumps into you, causing the substance to spill on them, your actions are not considered willful, and you cannot be charged under Penal Code 244.

On the other hand, malicious acts are unlawful and intended to injure, disturb or annoy another person.

You Acted with an Intent to Disfigure or Injure the Alleged Victim

One of the most critical elements of PC 244 is your intention when placing or throwing the chemical. The prosecutor has the burden to prove your intent which is very complicated. You can cause injury to a person using a caustic chemical and not be charged with this crime under the following circumstances:

  • You were in a physical fight with the victim, and you did not know about the presence of caustic chemicals
  • An accident occurred, and the chemicals were accidentally thrown on the victim
  • The alleged victim initiated the action that resulted in their injury.

Additionally, you must have intended to disfigure a part of the victim’s body when you acted. His intent to disfigure is met with questions of whether or not you knew of the presence and nature of the substance as a caustic chemical. For example, if you pour a flammable substance on the floor to distract a person pursuing you and they fall on it and become hurt, you cannot be found guilty under California PC 244.

Sentencing and Punishment for Assault with Caustic Chemicals

The prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime before you are found guilty of assault with caustic chemicals. Proving the elements of crime will require presenting physical and circumstantial evidence to support the elements. Unlike other assault crimes that can attract felony or misdemeanor charges, assault with caustic chemicals is a serious felony. A conviction for violating PC 244 attracts the following penalties:

  • A prison sentence of two, three, or four years
  • Fines that do not exceed $10,000

Felony Probation for Assault with Caustic Chemicals

For most first-time offenders facing a conviction for assault with caustic chemicals, the court can impose probation as an alternative to prison time. If probation is part of your sentence, you will serve part of your sentence on community service under supervision. Not all defendants who face charges under this statute will receive probation. California courts consider the following factors when awarding probation:

  • Your criminal history. If you are a repeat offender or have a history of violent crimes, the court can deny your probation sentence and mandate that you serve your entire prison sentence behind bars.
  • Whether your crime involved a complex plan. Throwing a flammable chemical on another person can be part of a pre-planned scheme or heat of the moment. If you had an elaborate plan to find the alleged victim and harm them with the caustic chemical, you could not be sent to probation.
  • The possible effect of incarceration on you. People commit serious crimes like an assault with caustic chemicals for multiple reasons. If you are mentally challenged or have drug problems, the court may consider placing you on probation, where you will receive the necessary treatment to address the underlying issue.
  • Your attitude towards probation. Unlike prison time and fines, probation is not mandatory. In most cases, your attorney must negotiate and agree with the prosecution to have you serve probation. Felony probation lasts up to five years, which is unfavorable for everyone. Since the maximum sentence for assault with caustic chemicals is four years, you can decline the probation offer and serve your prison time.
  • Your probation history. If you have been sent to probation for past crimes, your performance may affect your sentence for assault with caustic chemicals. If you have a history of probation violation, the court mandates that you serve your prison sentence.

Your probation sentence is often attached to strict conditions that you must follow. Common probation conditions for assault with caustic chemicals include:

  • Regular meetings with your probation officer. When you are sent to probation in California, the court appoints a probation officer to monitor your progress and write your probation reports. You must check in with your probation officer throughout probation to report your progress.
  • Pay victim restitution. Assault with a filmable chemical can potentially cause serious injuries to the victim. If the court sentences you to probation, you must pay the victim for their losses. Unlike court fines which serve as punishment for your crime, restitution helps the victim cover the losses and disabilities associated with their injury.
  • Attend individual or group therapy. Depending on the exact circumstances under which you committed the crime, the court may require you to attend counseling sessions to deal with anger management, drug abuse, and domestic violence issues.
  • Pay your court fines. As a condition of your probation, the court requires you to pay your fines of $10,000.
  • Avoid violating other laws. While on probation, you should not commit other crimes. An arrest during your probation is a violation that could attract serious consequences.
  • Comply with a restraining order. Assault with caustic chemicals causes serious injuries to a victim. Therefore, the court can issue a restraining order against you. Restraining Orders are meant to protect the victim of a criminal act from further injury. Mostly, the order mandates that you avoid all contact with the alleged victim of your acts.

Although serving probation will save you from prison time, following the probation terms is critical. A violation of one or more conditions can result in probation violation charges. The worst outcome of a probation violation is revoking your probation and reinstating the maximum prison sentence for your offense. Another outcome could include harsher probation terms.

Legal Defenses Against Penal Code 244 Charges

The possible consequences of a conviction for assault with an explosive chemical are severe and sometimes long-lasting. Therefore, you will require expert legal guidance to navigate the case. Your attorney will help you understand the charges, protect your rights, and formulate the right legal strategy to fight the charges.

The first strategy of defense is to have your charges dismissed or be found guilty of the offense. Your attorney will do this by attacking the prosecutor’s evidence against you and creating doubt for each element. If the prosecutor’s case is strong enough, you can seek a plea deal for a lesser charge or fight for a reduced sentence. Common arguments you can use to build your defense include the following:

Your Actions were not Willful or Malicious

One of the key elements that must be clear when you are charged with violating CPC 244 is that your actions were willfully malicious. If your attorney can show that you did not deliberately harm the victim or that their contact with the caustic chemical was accidental, you can avoid a conviction under this statute.

You Acted in Self-Defense or Defense of Another Person

No law limits how to protect yourself from a dangerous situation. In California, you have the right to use whatever is necessary to protect yourself. Therefore, defense or defense for another person is a valid defense for assault with caustic chemicals. However, you can only use this defense under the following circumstances:

  • You reasonably believed that you were in danger of injury or death
  • You believed that the use of force was necessary to protect yourself or protect another person from danger
  • The amount of force you use was only necessary for protection and not to harm another person.

For example, if a person comes at you with a dangerous weapon and you throw a flammable chemical on their face to distract them, your actions are justified.

You Had No Intention Of Injuring Or Disfiguring The Alleged Victim

Another critical element that defines assault with a caustic chemical is the intention to disfigure or injure another person. Without this intent, you cannot be found guilty of violating Penal Code 244.

Mistaken Identity

Most serious crimes occur during the night or in secluded areas. For example, if a victim is ambushed and a caustic chemical is thrown in their face, it may be difficult to correctly identify the person who committed the act. If you are of the same race, body type, and appearance as the perpetrator of the crime, you could be a victim of mistaken identity.

Your attorney can help you beat a charge where you were mistakenly identified by attacking the credibility of the victim’s testimony. Additionally, you can offer an alibi on your whereabouts during the crime. You will not be found guilty if there is sufficient evidence, like camera footage of you in another area.

You Did Not Use Dangerous Chemical

Charges under Penal Code 244 only apply when you use particular chemicals on another person. Not all substances thrown or placed on a person can cause injury or disfigurement. Using expert testimony, you can ascertain that the substance you used does not fit the definition of a caustic chemical.

Although this defense can help you with a conviction under PC 244, the court could still bring charges of simple assault or other forms of assault for your actions towards the victim.

Offenses Related to Assault with Caustic Chemicals

Assault with an explosive chemical is one of the most serious offenses under assault and battery laws. When you face charges under Penal Code 244, the prosecution can introduce the following crimes to replace or accompany your charge:

Simple Assault

Under California PC 240, battery is an unlawful attempt coupled with a present ability to commit a violent act against another person. When you face charges for assault with caustic chemicals, you can fight to reduce your charges to simple assault. Unlike PC 244, PC 240 is a misdemeanor. Therefore, the prosecution will only agree to reduce your charges if there is no evidence that you used a flammable chemical against the alleged victim.

A simple assault has the following elements that must be clear before a conviction:

  • You acted in a manner that could result in the application of force against another person
  • Your actions were willful
  • You knew that your actions would result in force application from a reasonable person’s perspective.
  • You had the present ability to apply force against the victim.

Simple assault is always a misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence of one year and a fine of up to $1,000. In most cases of assault with caustic chemicals, simple assault is treated as a plea, where your attorney must find sufficient evidence to warrant reducing the charges.

Simple Battery

You commit the crime of battery when you use force or violence against another person. Although the definition of a battery may seem straightforward, understanding the actions that could attract charges under CPC 242 may be challenging. The main difference between assault and battery is that a battery is the actual application of force or violence. However, evidence of injury is unnecessary to charge and convict you of battery.

A prosecutor proves your guilt under PC 242 by establishing the following elements:

  • You touched another person. Touch under this statute means contact with the alleged victim’s body. Contact does not need to be direct and can be made using another object.
  • Your actions were willful. You will only be found guilty of battery if you intentionally touched the alleged victim.
  • Your contact with the victim was unpleasant. Your contact with another person will suffice as battery if it is offensive to the victim.

Simple battery is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in county jail. However, your charges could be elevated to a felony if any of these aggravating circumstances are present in your case:

  • You committed the crime against a peace officer
  • You are a repeat offender
  • You committed the crime against a domestic partner

A felony conviction under this statute will see you spend up to three years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

An attempt to use force or violence against another person using a lethal or deadly weapon is met with an arrest and charges under California PC 245(a)(1). AWD can attract felony or misdemeanor charges. Therefore, you must be aggressive to fight the charges and avoid a conviction.

If it is proven that you did not use a flammable chemical on the victim, but the force used was enough to cause serious injury, you can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The following are elements that the prosecution must prove to establish your guilt under this statute:

  • You engaged in an act that could naturally result in the application of force against someone else
  • You performed the act using a deadly weapon or with enough force to cause serious injury
  • You knew that your actions could result in violence
  • You can use force against the alleged victim

Assault with a lethal weapon is a wobbler. You can face felony or misdemeanor charges, depending on your circumstances. A felony conviction for AWD will result in a maximum of four years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A misdemeanor conviction, on the other hand, will cause you to spend one year in jail.

Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury

Battery is offensive contact with another person’s body. Even slight touching can suffice, as with the battery in California. However, when the offensive touching causes serious injury to a victim, you will be charged with battery causing serious bodily injury under California Penal Code 243(d). The factors the prosecuting attorney must prove in your case include

  • You willfully touched another person offensively.
  • The alleged victim sustained serious bodily injury. A severe bodily injury under this statute could be anything from fractures to broken bonds or loss of a body part.
  • Your actions were not in self-defense or the defense of another person.

Prosecutors can file felony or misdemeanor charges under Penal Code 245(a)(1). As a misdemeanor, the penalties for assault with a deadly weapon include a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. A felony conviction, on the other hand, is punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison. Sometimes, the court could impose a $10,000 fine or felony probation.

Aggravated Mayhem

Under California PC 205, aggravated mayhem is the crime you commit when you intentionally cause disfigurement or permanent injury to another person. Using a caustic chemical on another person can cause disfigurement or loss of a body part. In this case, the prosecution may file charges for aggravated mayhem along with assault with caustic chemicals. The elements of aggravated mayhem include:

  • You unlawfully disabled or disfigured another person
  • You acted intending to disfigure or disable the alleged victim
  • You sowed extreme indifference to the victim's well-being

Aggravated mayhem is a serious felony punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Therefore, if the prosecution introduces these charges in your case, you will require the guidance of a skilled attorney to fight them.

Find a Reliable Defense Attorney Near Me

Assault is divided into different categories depending on the crime's specific circumstances. You will be charged with assault with caustic chemicals when you willfully or maliciously place or throw a flammable substance onto another person. Under California Penal Code 244, a caustic chemical is any substance with a flashpoint of 150 degrees or less. The stakes are high if you or your loved one faces charges for caustic chemicals.

You will not only spend time behind bars and pay hefty fines but also be left with a tainted criminal record. If your crime is charged as a felony, the felony conviction can affect your personal and professional life. Hiring and retaining a skilled criminal lawyer is critical to fighting your PC 244 charges.

You will benefit from our top-notch legal guidance at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. Our skilled lawyers will help protect your rights and fight the charges to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction. We serve clients battling assault charges in Chula Vista, CA. Contact us today at 619-877-6894 to discuss the details of your case.