The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is a law firm that can help you in all your assault and battery charges, especially if you have been charged in the Los Angeles area. Get in touch with us if you or your loved one has been charged with assault with caustic chemicals.
The Legal Definition of Assault with Caustic Chemicals
PC 244 is the official law of California regarding the criminal offense of assault with caustic chemicals. Penal Code 244 provides that any person who maliciously and willfully places, throws, causes to be thrown, or placed any caustic chemical or flammable substance to another person with the intention to injure or disfigure a person will be held to be criminally liable. California’s Penal Code does not give a minimum limit of the amount of caustic substance which should not be thrown or placed on an individual. Therefore, throwing a tiny portion of a flammable liquid to someone else will make you charged with the offense of assault with caustic chemicals.
The Meaning of a Caustic Chemical
Generally, caustic chemicals are substances that can corrode or burn human living tissues. According to the Webster New International Dictionary, a caustic chemical is any substance that can destroy the texture of an item or eat it away through chemical action, corrosion, or burning. Vitriol is one good example of a caustic chemical because it is made of sulfuric acid, which can tamper with the skin tissues of any human being or animal.
Apart from caustic chemicals, PC 244 also states that it is an offense to disfigure or injure someone else with a flammable substance. Typically, flammable materials have a flashpoint of below 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
The term ‘flashpoint' means the lowest temperature at which the vapor of a liquid can ignite. If a particular liquid has a low flashpoint, then it can ignite quite easily. For instance, gasoline has a flashpoint of -40 degrees. Therefore, it can quickly ignite; and it is covered under PC 244 as a flammable substance. On the other hand, the flashpoint of motor oil is above 400 degrees. So, it can't be categorized as a flammable substance.
The Meaning of Willfully and Maliciously
You will be deemed to have acted willfully if you do anything on purpose. Also, an individual will be held to have acted maliciously if he or she has an unlawful intent to injure, defraud, annoy, or disturb another person.
For instance, Elvis is not financially stable; and he resides in an RV. During winter, his RV is quite cold; but his space heater doesn’t have any kerosene. Elvis has no money left to purchase kerosene so that he can fuel his space heater. Therefore, he breaks into Murray's house – his neighbor, to steal some kerosene. Murray catches Elvis red-handed. In the process of apprehending Elvis, some drops of the kerosene oil accidentally drop into Murray’s eyes. In such a scenario, Elvis will be guilty of burglary since he broke into Murray's house intending to steal. However, because he didn’t splash the kerosene on Murray maliciously and willfully; the prosecution will not charge him with the offense of assault with caustic chemicals.
The Meaning of Intention to Injure or Disfigure
PC 244 illustrates that the defendant must have had the intention to disfigure or injure the victim. If the defendant threw a caustic substance to the victim by accident, they would be acquitted since he or she didn't have any intention to harm another person. Also, the defendant's case will be dismissed if he or she asserts that they didn't know that the substance which they threw on the victim was flammable and hazardous. Overall, for you to be convicted of assault with caustic chemicals, the prosecution must prove that there were intent and an overt act which can bring about an injury.
The Penalties for Assault with Caustic Chemicals
Assault with caustic chemicals is categorized as a felony. Its potential punishments include a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years; or a fine which may be up to ten thousand dollars.
If you are not sentenced to prison, the judge can order you to serve a probation term. In this probation term, you will be obliged to reside in the county jail for around one year. Moreover, you will still have to pay a fine and adhere to certain probation conditions like:
- Meeting regularly with the probation officer
- Restituting the victim
- Participating in a group or individual therapy
- Taking part in community labor or community service
- Complying with the court’s protective order not to be near the victim and to avoid harassing him
Legal Defenses to Assault with Caustic Chemicals
There are several legal defenses to the criminal offense of assault with caustic chemicals. If you utilize any of them, you can be acquitted, or your case may be dismissed. Here are some of them:
You Didn't Act Maliciously or Willfully
For the prosecution to convince the court to convict you of assault with caustic chemicals, they must prove that you acted willfully and maliciously. If you injured someone by accident, you shouldn’t be held guilty of assault with caustic chemicals – even if the victim has been badly injured or you acted with criminal negligence.
You Didn't Have the Intention to Disfigure or Injure Another Person
You must have intended to disfigure or injure the victim for you to be punished for assault with caustic chemicals. If you didn't have the intention to cause harm to another person, your case would be dismissed.
Don’t confuse this requirement of having intent with acting willfully and maliciously. You can be held by the court to have acted maliciously and willfully, even if you didn’t have the intention to cause injuries to the victim.
For example, Corrine is involved in a fight with Pamela – her coworker, in the breakroom of the company where they work. While they are fighting, Corrine picks up a mop bucket and splashes its contents onto Pamela. Corrine thinks that she will end up making Pamela dirty and wet with the used mopping water inside the bucket. She fails to realize that the bucket contains a powerful detergent. This detergent burns Pamela’s arms. In this scenario, the court will hold that Corrine’s actions were willful and malicious. Moreover, it will be adduced that she had no intention to disfigure or injure Pamela. Corrine can thus be guilty of battery, but she definitely won’t be guilty of assault with caustic chemicals.
- Self Defense and Defense of Others
This is also one of the most valid defenses to the criminal offense of assault with caustic chemicals. For your attorney to utilize this defense in your favor, he must abide by three crucial requirements.
First, he must assert that you had a reasonable belief that danger was imminent. Maybe you or your loved one feared being touched unlawfully, injured, or killed. Next, he must prove that it was apparent for you to use reasonable force to protect yourself and your close friends or family members from being harmed. Finally, he must convince the court that you utilized sufficient force to defend yourself; and you didn't act unreasonably.
- You Didn't Utilize a Caustic Chemical
Caustic chemicals are usually flammable, and they can cause significant harm to any person who exposes his skin to them. The penal code of California does not give a comprehensive list of caustic chemicals that should not be used against another person. This law assumes that caustic chemicals are well-known by the general public, and the courts have taken judicial notice of them.
If you utilized a chemical which is not popular, your attorney could tell the court that it wasn't hazardous or flammable to cause grievous harm to someone else. For example, he can have an expert in chemicals show the court the components of that specific chemical and testify why it is not dangerous. Furthermore, your attorney can allude that the injuries suffered by the victim have not been derived from being splashed on with a caustic chemical. Perhaps the victim had a serious skin disease – you never know.
- False Accusation
Maybe you have been framed. Alternatively rather, someone you wronged wanted to take revenge against you, and they set you up and called the police who did a shoddy investigation. If these circumstances apply to you, then you should utilize the defense of false accusations. However, you will be obliged to call witnesses and to document evidence which will illustrate that you didn’t injure the victim with a caustic chemical.
- Human Rights Violations
Prosecutors can utilize illegal means to gather evidence. If the only evidence which the prosecution intends to rely on was acquired through contravention of the law, your attorney could request for a suppression hearing in the pre-trial stage. In this hearing, all the evidence which was obtained illegally will be excluded. This will make the prosecution to lack evidence, and your case will be dismissed.
- Insufficient Evidence
In all criminal cases, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution, and the standard of proof is beyond all reasonable doubt. In instances where the prosecutor has a weak case, he may fail to meet this high standard. This way, the jury will have no reason to convict you, and you will be acquitted.
Assault with Caustic Chemicals and Related Offenses
There are some criminal offenses in California that are closely related to assault with caustic chemicals. Some of them are usually less serious, and your attorney can utilize them in plea bargaining. This way, you will face less grievous penalties. For instance, you may serve a shorter sentence, serve a probation term instead of being incarcerated, or you may be sentenced to jail instead of state prison.
The penal code of California has enlisted various types of assaults. The offense of assault with caustic chemicals is a variation of common assault. Apart from the criminal offense of assault with caustic chemicals, there are other variations of common assault like an assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a police officer, and throwing a dangerous object on a motor vehicle. These offenses can be categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies. Here are some offenses which are related to assault with caustic chemicals:
Assault can be described as a form of battery. PC 240 of California defines assault as the act of attempting or threatening to use violence or force. On the other hand, California Penal Code 242 describes the offense of battery as the act of inflicting violence or force on a particular individual.
Before you are convicted of the offense of assault with caustic chemicals, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the substances in question made contact with the body of the victim. This is why this offense can be categorized as a battery. When a person injures someone else with a caustic chemical, it means that this person has inflicted force or violence on him.
Simple battery is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Its punishments include a jail term that does not exceed six months or a fine which may be up to two thousand dollars.
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
The offense of assault with a deadly weapon is defined in California’s Penal Code 245(a)1. Assault with a deadly weapon is a California wobbler, meaning that it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor per the prosecutor’s discretion.
The prosecutor will have to take into consideration various factors before charging you with either misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon or felony assault with a deadly weapon. Some of these factors include whether you utilized a firearm to attack the victim, the magnitude of the victim's injury, and if the victim had been a law enforcement officer or any other protected public official.
The penalties for felony assault with a deadly weapon are similar to those for assault with caustic chemicals. Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon has less harsh punishments such as a one-year jail term or a fine which should not exceed one thousand dollars.
- Battery Causing Serious Injury
This offense is a more aggravated version of a simple battery. The prosecution would charge you of battery causing injury if you caused grievous bodily harm to another person by inflicting force or violence against him. Some examples of severe physical injuries include concussions, disfigurement, and bone fractures.
Sometimes, the offense of assault with a deadly weapon can end up being charged as battery causing severe injury if the victim had to spend too much time at the hospital and much money for treatment, or if he suffered from a long term illness because of the assault. The penalties for battery causing injury is a term in state prison, which may be two, three, or four years or a fine which may be up to ten thousand dollars.
As illustrated by California criminal jury instructions, there are various factors that the prosecution must prove for you to be convicted of battery causing injury. Just like in the criminal offense of assault with caustic chemicals, the prosecutor must show that you acted willfully. He must also demonstrate that the victim suffered grievous bodily harm, and assert that you didn’t act in either defense of self or defense of others.
- Simple Assault
According to PC 240, it is unlawful to try to injure another person violently. You would be convicted of simple assault even if you didn't make contact with the victim. The offense of simple assault is a misdemeanor. Its punishments include a jail term that does not exceed six months or a fine which may be up to one thousand dollars.
- Brandishing a Firearm or Weapon
It is a criminal offense in California to unlawfully exhibit a deadly weapon or a firearm in the presence of another person. This offense is a misdemeanor. For you to be convicted of brandishing a gun or weapon, the prosecution must prove that you utilized it in a fight, or you presented it in a threatening, rude, or angry manner. It is not a requirement for the firearm to have been loaded if you have been accused of brandishing it.
For instance, David is a known criminal, but the police have failed to get a hold on him. He sees an ad in a newspaper that promises a huge reward to anyone who can report to the police of his whereabouts. David carries the advertisement and shows it to his neighbor – Hillary. David then removes his gun and uses it to threaten Hillary. He warns her that if she attempts to help law enforcement officers turn him in, he will take her life away. Hillary becomes furious and calls the police. In such a scenario, David will have to face the criminal charge of brandishing a firearm; alongside other charges.
- Assault on a Public Officer
If you attempt to injure a protected public official, you will be charged with the criminal offense of assault on a public officer. The definition of the term ‘public officer’ is quite broad, and it can be any person listed in California PC 830.1 and 830.5.
Assault on a public officer is a wobbler, and it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This offense is closely related to assault with caustic chemicals because it can result in bodily injuries to the victim.
Generally, you should not attempt to use violence or force against certain protected persons in California. This is because the state of California has well-defined rules regarding the assault on these protected persons. Assault on a public officer is a criminal offense that is mainly meant for protecting public officers. There are also other criminal offenses that are specifically designed to keep certain groups of people secure as they perform their work duties. Some of these offenses include assault on emergency personnel, assault on a police officer, and resisting an executive officer.
The penalties for felony assault on a public officer include a three-year jail term or a fine which should not exceed ten thousand dollars. For you to be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that you acted in retaliation or with the aim of preventing the public officer from carrying out his official duties.
- Throwing Dangerous Object at a Motor Vehicle
You will be charged with the criminal offense of throwing a dangerous object at a motor vehicle if you willfully and maliciously, project or throw any brick, rock, missile, metal, bottle, or any other harmful substance which can cause serious bodily injuries to a motor vehicle or its occupants. This offense is related to assault with caustic chemicals because someone can throw a flammable chemical to a motor vehicle occupant to injure him.
The offense of throwing a dangerous object at a motor vehicle is a felony. Its penalties include a state prison term of up to three years or a fine which does not exceed ten thousand dollars. Note that you will still be convicted of throwing a dangerous object at a motor vehicle even if the car wasn't in motion, and the harmful substance didn't strike the car.
For example, Derrick sees his girlfriend Velma with another man – supposedly her new boyfriend, inside a vehicle cuddling together. Derrick takes offense, and he takes a huge rock and throws it towards the car. The boulder crashes the windshield, and both Velma and her new boyfriend incur severe head physical injuries. In this situation, Derrick will be put under arrest and charged with the offense of throwing a dangerous object at a motor vehicle.
Find an Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Do not panic if you’ve been charged with the offense of assault with caustic chemicals in Los Angeles since there may be a way out. Call The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney today at 310-564-2605, and we will offer you professional legal help. Moreover, you will have access to an experienced California assault criminal defense attorney who will assist you in analyzing your case.