ASSAULT WITH CAUSTIC CHEMICALS
The Penal Code in California differentiates between types of assault. These distinctions include: (1) Simple Assault, (2) Assault on a Public Official, (3) Assault with a Deadly Weapon; and (4) Assault with Caustic Chemicals/Flammable Substance. Each of these different degrees of assault is discussed at length in other sections of this website. As you have already figured out, the degrees are based on what is involved in the purported assault. The crime of assault with caustic chemicals, or flammable substances is treated as a felony. This is a departure from the other degrees of assault charges because the other assault charges mentioned above are known as “Wobbler.” A “Wobbler” is a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor, or a felony. The decision is made by the Prosecution, based on the facts surrounding the case. Assault with Caustic Chemicals, or Flammable substances, however, is treated as a felony no matter what. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the penalties associated with it. Necessarily then, a conviction for assault with a caustic chemical, or flammable substance will carry a much more severe penalty than a conviction for simple assault
California Penal Code §244 defines the crime of assault with a caustic chemical or a flammable Substances. The crime of assault with a caustic chemical, or flammable substance is defined as an individual, who willfully and maliciously throws or places a caustic chemical, or a flammable substance on another person. The actual statute can be found in California Penal Code §244. The crime of assault with a caustic chemical of a flammable substance is punishable by incarceration in a state prison for a period of two (2), three (3) or four(4) years, depending on the facts surrounding your case. The definition of a flammable substance for purposes of this crime is any flammable liquid with a “flashpoint” of 150 degrees or less. The Webster’s definition of “caustic chemicals” is a substance, which is capable of eating away a substance by any chemical action.
This crime is also distinguishable from the other degrees of assault in that for the crime to occur, the substance must actually make contact with the victim. This is different from the other forms of assault because a touching does not actually need to occur to maintain a conviction for the other degrees of assault. Specifically then, to maintain a conviction for assault with a caustic chemical, or a flammable substance, 244 requires that the Prosecution prove the substance actually, as opposed to could have, touched the victim. If the Prosecution fails to prove this fact beyond a reasonable doubt, you should not be convicted of assault with a caustic chemical, or a flammable substance.
As stated above, the elements required for a conviction under §244 are different than the elements required for other forms of assault. Specifically, if any quantity of the substance is thrown, or placed, at/on another person, and is done willfully and maliciously with an intent to disfigure the other person, the quantity used is wholly irrelevant to a conviction. Note, the quantity will be relevant when your sentence is determined.
Ultimately, the Prosecution must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to maintain a conviction for assault with a caustic chemical, or flammable substance, against you: (1) the defendant acted willfully and maliciously, (2) by placing or throwing a caustic or flammable substance onto another person; and (3) the Defendant intended to injure or disfigure that person. If the Prosecution does not prove each and every one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should not be convicted of Assault with a Caustic Chemical, or Flammable Substance. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have experience with a wide range of criminal charges, including §244 charges. With their superior understanding of the law, our OCCA attorneys will fight to negate the Prosecution’s case against you, and hopefully allow you to walk free. In the worst case scenario, where you are convicted, your OCCA attorney will forcefully advocate for the lowest sentence you can receive. Below, there is a detailed analysis of the elements the Prosecution must prove
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACT WILLFULLY AND MALICIOUSLY?
The first element the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant acted willfully. Willfully in this context, means that the Defendant was in control of his actions when he caused the caustic chemical, or flammable substance, to make contact with another person. For purposes of this element, it is not necessary that the Defendant intended for the substance to make contact with the victim; this element only requires that the defendant was in control of his actions, and those actions were the cause of the substance making contact with the victim.
Another key component of this crime is that in addition to acting willfully, the defendant acted with malice. Malice means that the Defendant acted intentionally with the purpose of injuring, annoying, or vexing the victim. This element does not require a specific objective of maiming or disfiguring the victim.
Tom works at “AcidCo”, a company that specializes in making highly corrosive chemicals. One day. Tom noticed that the containers AcidCo placed their chemicals in were precariously balanced on a shelf above his work space. Tom notified his supervisor, Thomas, about the issue, but Thomas did nothing to change it. One day, while Tom was on the phone with a client, the chemicals fell and severely disfigured him. In this scenario, Thomas cannot be guilty of violating §244 because he did not act willfully, or with malice. Thomas did not place the chemicals above Tom’s desk, and Thomas did not act with intent to injure, annoy, or vex Tom.
Vince and Brandon were filling up Brandon’s Toyota Prius at the “Hippy Gas Station” Brandon’s ex-boyfriend Clark showed up, and tried to talk to Brandon. Brandon was furious with Clark because a week earlier Clark had insulted the Seattle Seahawks. Brandon, believing that anyone who doesn’t like the Seahawks is a terrible person, sprayed the gasoline on Clark. Here, Brandon can be convicted of assault with a caustic chemical or Flammable Substance because: (1) he acted intentionally when he pointed the gas nozzle at Clark and sprayed, and (2) he intended to vex, annoy, or injure Clark.
WHAT IS AN INTENT TO INJURE ANOTHER?
The next element the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that in addition to acting willfully and maliciously, the Defendant acted with the intent to injure, or disfigure, the Victim. In general, to satisfy this element under §244, there must be an overt act, with an intent to injure another person, and there must be an actually ability to cause that injury.
Clark, an overbearing boss, got on Joey’s case by harassing him about meaningless work. Over time, Joey became annoyed with Clark. One day, Joey invited Clark to walk to get lunch with him. On the way there, Joey threw a vile of acid on Clark. Joey will be guilty of assault with caustic chemicals because the acid is a caustic chemical, Joey willfully and maliciously threw the acid at Clark, the acid actually contacted Cark, and Joey intended to injure Clark.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES IF I AM CONVICTED OF ASSAULT WITH CAUSTIC CHEMICALS OR A FLAMMABLE SUBSTANCE?
As mentioned above, assault with caustic chemicals or a flammable substance is a felony. If convicted, you may be punished with incarceration for two (2), three (3), or four (4) years, a fine of up to ten thousand ($10,000) dollars, or a combination of both.
WHAT LEGAL DEFENSES CAN MY OCCA ATTORNEY BRING UP IF I AM CHARGED WITH ASSAULT WITH CAUSTIC CHEMICALS OR A FLAMMABLE SUBSTANCE?
Assault with a caustic chemical or a flammable substance is a felony. If you are convicted of this crime, it will appear on your criminal background. Today, most employers conduct a background check on potential employees to determine if they are fit for the position. Many employers view a criminal background as indicating an individual is unfit to work for them. This is exacerbated when the crime is a felony, such as a §244 conviction. If you have been charged with assault with a caustic chemical or a flammable substance, contact an attorney at Orange County Criminal Attorney immediately. The attorneys at OCCA have the experience necessary to advocate effectively against a conviction. If you are convicted, your OCCA attorney will fight for the lowest sentence available. As stated above, the Prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a guilty verdict. Your OCCA attorney will raise several defenses in order to defeat the Prosecution’s case against you. Some of these defenses include: Your actions were not willful or malicious.
As detailed above, in order to be convicted under §244, the Prosecution must show that your actions were willful and malicious. Even if you acted willfully, you cannot be convicted if you didn’t intend to injure, annoy, or vex someone. This is a strong argument, as the Prosecution will have a difficult time proving that you intended your act to accomplish those goals. You did not intend to disfigure the victim.
Your actions were in defense of yourself or someone else.
A self-defense argument can be made if your conduct was an effort to protect yourself from an imminent harmful or offensive touching to yourself or someone you care about. The law recognizes that sometimes force is needed to protect yourself and your loved ones. If that was the case, the Prosecution will have a difficult time proving their case.