In the state of California, assault with a caustic chemical is a felony that can result in up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. Unlike the other forms of assault, assault under PC 244 is not a wobbler. A “wobbler” is a term used to define a violation of the law that may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Most misdemeanor assault cases involve an individual found in the act of carrying out a plan of attack. However, when it comes to PC 244, the prosecuting party may only press charges if the caustic chemical has made contact with their body. In other words, the caustic or flammable chemical must have made contact with the other party in order to press charges for assault. Due to the severe result of an attack with caustic chemicals, the defendant will face felony charges as opposed to misdemeanor charges.

Those who are facing charges for a violation of PC 244 should consider contacting a local Orange County Criminal Attorney to discuss the details of the case. When dealing with California’s definition of the law, it is crucial to understand the three main points that the prosecutor needs to prove for a successful conviction. Under California law, to be charged with ‘assault with a caustic chemical’ the prosecuting party will need to demonstrate that the other party: a) was aware of his or her intentions and willfully acted upon them, b) has placed or has thrown a caustic or flammable chemical, c) has acted with the intention to cause injury or disfigurement. A criminal law attorney has the capacity to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecuting party. For a successful prosecution, each point needs to be proven with beyond reasonable doubt which may be difficult to prove if you have caused injuries to another person on accident.

There are a number of ways that a criminal law attorney can help your case especially if any of the following are true:

  • Your actions were not intentional
  • Your actions were based on self-defense
  • Your actions were done on accident
  • Your actions were a result of a medical or mental condition that affects your consciousness or alertness

If you are charged with a violation under PC 244, it is crucial to contact an attorney who can help you understand how your case will play out in a courtroom.  You want to ensure that you receive the lowest possible sentence or fines and that you do not receive more punishment than is warranted. Furthermore, you should consider working with an attorney if you did not act with the intention to hurt a person with caustic chemicals.

A criminal law attorney will challenge your case so that you receive a lesser punishment or so that your charges may be dropped altogether. To learn more about the legal defense strategies that may apply to your case, you may contact the Orange County Criminal Attorney at 714-831-1858. Our attorney understands that accidents can occur frequently in a workplace filled with caustic chemicals and other hazardous materials. When accidents occur, there is always a finger being pointed at someone, we are here to ensure that you do not face unlawful charges.

The following section will discuss the language in Penal Code 244, the different types of flammable and caustic chemicals under PC 244, and possible defense strategies for a charge under PC 244. Keep in mind that the following is a generalization and should not be considered a consultation. To learn about your specific case, you will need to contact an attorney that can apply local California laws to your case.

Caustic Chemicals

First and foremost, it is crucial to understand what a caustic chemical under PC 244 is. A caustic chemical is a substance that causes damage to exposed body tissue. Caustic chemicals are a strong base and acid solutions that can cause a long-term effect upon contact with skin and may damage internal organs like the eyes. When caustic chemicals are swallowed, they may cause damage to internal organs. Furthermore, a caustic chemical can be a flammable substance. PC 244 considers flammable any substance with a flash point of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or less. For instance, if you shower someone with gasoline, a highly flammable hydrocarbon, you may be charged with ‘assault with a caustic chemical’ under PC 244. Gasoline has a flashpoint that is negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit meaning that the substance is highly flammable. On the other hand, if you cover someone with car oil, then you may not be charged under PC 244 for attempting to cause harm with a caustic chemical. Motor oil is a lubricant with a flashpoint at 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Under PC 244, motor oil is not considered flammable enough to be easily set on fire and cause damage to a person.  

Caustic chemicals can be found in every workplace whether you are working with strong bases in construction or flammable substances in the medical field. Caustic chemicals serve a unique purpose in the workplace and should always be handled with precaution to avoid an accident that may lead to a lawsuit. Some of the most common caustic chemicals in the workplace include the following acids: acetic acid, chromic acid, hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid. Some base chemicals include potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, and ammonium hydroxide.

More commonly caustic chemicals can include the following:

  • Certain oil-based paints
  • Certain cleaning solutions
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel

Caustic is a term used to describe a substance that can cause severe damage to the skin upon contact. Caustic chemicals are capable of burning or damaging the skin tissue and other organs.  Flammable substances require a certain amount of heat to catch on fire. In California, a flammable chemical under PC 244 includes solutions with a flashpoint of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Flashpoint is the amount of temperature required to cause the solution to ignite. This means that solutions with a flashpoint above 150 may not be considered caustic or flammable enough to be charged under PC 244 assault with a flammable substance.

The chemicals mentioned above, have the capacity to burn and destroy flesh beyond repair. The more concentrated a substance is and the longer it stays on your body, the more it will damage your skin tissue or internal organs. If you have come into contact with a caustic chemical, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. To find the proper medication you will need to provide the type of acid or base chemical that has caused the irritation or the injury. A buffer can be prescribed to counteract the effects of acidic or basic effects on the skin. There are other solutions that may be applicable to your type of burn.

Caustic Chemicals and OSHA

Due to the severity of the situation that results from a caustic chemical burn, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a variety of workplace rules and regulations regarding how to store and administer a caustic chemical. If you fail to abide by the rules set out by OSHA and your negligence has caused a caustic injury, you may face charges for negligence. If you are an employer, a manager, or owner of a company where caustic chemicals are part of the ordinary routine, you may want to review some of the rules set out by OSHA. Caustic and flammable chemicals should be carefully administered and stored in order to avoid a workplace accident.

Understanding Penal Code 244

To be successfully prosecuted under PC 244, the prosecuting party has the burden to provide proof for their allegations. First, they must prove that the act was ‘[willful and malicious]’. To prove that you assaulted someone with a caustic chemical and that it was not an accident, the prosecuting party will need to provide eyewitness testimonies and other strengthening factors like video camera footage to prove their point.

Ex: One day Tom who works at Chemicals Co. engages Jerry with a bucket of gasoline and attempts to set him on fire. Though he does not succeed, Tom acted willfully and with the intention to cause bodily harm. Jerry can prove through video footage and eyewitness accounts that the actions of Tom were willful.

Furthermore, under PC 244 the substance during the alleged assault must have been a caustic chemical. This means that the chemical was a) a flammable substance, b) vitriol (a sulfate solution), c) a corrosive acid, d) a ‘caustic chemical of any nature’. To be charged under PC the prosecuting party will need to prove that the nature of the substance had the potential to cause harm.

Ex: In the case with Tom, the substance he used against Jerry was gasoline. Gasoline is a highly flammable substance with a flashpoint of less than 159 degrees Fahrenheit. Gasoline has a flash point of negative 45 which means that the substance can ignite with a little amount of vapor particles on the surface. Jerry can prove that he was attacked with gasoline by providing clothing that he was wearing during the time of the attack or by providing physical evidence of the result of the attack.

Additionally, to be charged under PC 244, the prosecuting party will need to prove that you acted with the intention to cause injury or disfigurement. For instance, if you were carrying a substance to the other side of the room and you accidentally slip and spill a chemical on a coworker, you may have a good defense against PC 244. When your actions are without intention, it does not result in felony charges as there was no willful intention to damage another person.

Ex: Johnny burns his coworker with an acid solution with the intention to cause physical damage. Johnny is tired of work and his coworkers and unleashes hell one day. Unless Johnny can prove that his actions were a result of a mental disorder or condition, then he may face charges for acting with the intention to cause damage to other workers.


The prosecuting party will attempt to gain as much as they can from the charges in order to secure reparations. Reparations are paid to help cover medical costs and to help the damaged individual during their transitioning period or for damages caused to their reputation due to the accident. If you are sentenced to jail time, you may be required to serve a jail sentence between 2 to 4 years. Additionally, may be charged up to ten thousand dollars in fines. However, in California, a judge may sentence you to formal felony probation in which case the following applies:

  • The individual will be required to pay reparations to aid the victim’s hardships
  • Be required to attend therapy and engage in community service activities
  • Be required to live under formal probation and meet with a correctional officer

Additionally, a person that has been sentenced to formal felony probation, may be required to abide by the rules on a protective order. A protective order requires those considered “restrained” to keep a certain distance away from the “protected”. This means you may not be able to visit the locations the protective person frequents include his or her home and workplace. There are a variety of obligations mandated under restraining orders, to learn more you may visit the Judicial Branch of California.

To avoid a wrongful conviction, you may want to consult with an attorney about your case. An attorney can help provide the facts of your case so that you are not charged with more than is warranted. In certain cases, an attorney is capable of dismissing the charges by proving your innocence.

PC 244: Legal Defenses

As mentioned above, an attorney will use all the knowledge of the law revolving around your case to ensure that you are not wrongfully convicted or charged with more than is warranted. To best defend your case, you will want to inform your attorney about the factors that contributed to the incident and the exact details. You may want to provide the date of the alleged assault, the chemicals involved, and the allegations of the prosecuting party.   

There are strong defense strategies that can be used for individuals that fit the following descriptions:

The defendant acted in self-defense: if the person has acted within the measures of ‘self-defense’ then he or she may not be prosecuted under PC 244. For instance, if you were being attacked and you feared for your life, you have the right to self-defense. If you used chemical substances to defend your life, then you may not face charges under PC 244.

Ex: Jim attacks Tim with a knife at work. Tim notices the attack and dodges the strike. At the same time, Tim sprays Jim with a flammable cleaning solution in order to escape. Though Jim’s eyesight might be damaged, Tim’s actions were done out of self-defense and cannot be prosecuted under PC 244. In this case, Tim acted in a manner that caused Jim to fear for his life which resulted in the use of a cleaning spray for self-defense. Tim’s attorney can help prove his innocence by providing that Jim initially acted with the intention to cause grave damage to Tim.

The defendant’s actions were not willful: this means the defendant did not act to cause harm to the other person. For instance, if Tommy (a manager) violates the regulations of OSHA on caustic chemicals storage and an employee is hurt as a result of negligence, then Tommy could not be charged under PC 244. To be charged under PC 244 the act could not have been an accident, however, Tommy may face other charges for negligence and may lose his job.The defendants' actions were not intentional: this means he or she did not act with the intent to cause damage or disfigurement to another person.

Ex: Larry is carrying a container filled with a concentrated acid. He knows that he has not taken the correct procedures to handle and move the chemical however he continues to transfer the substance to another location in the workplace. As he is transferring the substance he slips and it comes into contact with an employee causing him to lose his eyesight. Though Larry willfully acted with negligence, he did not act with the intent to cause damage to the victim. Larry may not be charged under PC 244 however, he may face other consequences for his negligence.

Find a Local Orange County Criminal Attorney Near Me

A felony conviction under PC 244 “Assault with a Caustic Chemical” can result in high fines and prison time. To avoid a wrongful conviction, you may want to work with a trusted criminal law attorney that can help challenge the evidence against your case. If you are located in Orange County California, you may contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-831-1858. Our attorney is ready to provide consultation so that you are fully aware of your situation and of the ways in which you can challenge the case.