Typically, offenses involving assault are charged as felonies in the state of California. If you are convicted of an offense involving assault, you will face grievous penalties unless you get legal professional help from a highly experienced criminal defense attorney.
We at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer have a competent and reliable legal defense team to assist you in wading through the morass of litigation pilgrimage, as well as engineer credible and ingenious defenses to battery and assault charges. We will work hard and smart to defend you.
There are different forms of battery and assault charges in California. Assault with caustic chemicals is just one of them. If you or your loved one has been charged with the offense of assault with caustic chemicals, you should get in touch with us. We can help you obtain an acquittal or a dismissal.
We will also focus on shielding you against being subjected to discrimination and disrespect that comes with being labeled a social misfit and a criminal. We will discuss extensively the offense of assault with caustic chemicals, but before that, let’s have a brief look at battery and assault laws in California.
Assault and Battery as Defined Under California’s Criminal Laws
Assault and Battery is a combination of two crimes. Assault entails the use of threats of violence against someone, while Battery is the actual use of physical force against the person. The offense of assault and battery occurs when one uses threats of a violent nature against another person, coupled with the infliction of actual bodily pain into this person simultaneously.
This crime is harshly punishable as per California’s criminal laws. The offense of assault and battery attracts hefty punishments, which may range from fines, serving a jail term, probation, or being imposed with punitive penalties. Moreover, you will have a criminal record that will bar you from accessing opportunities such as employment, decent housing, university admissions, and scholarships.
There are various types of assault and battery charges in California. Some of these types include assault with a caustic chemical, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a public official.
Assault with a Caustic Chemical
Assault with a caustic chemical is defined under PC 244. According to PC 244, this offense occurs when an individual maliciously and willfully places or throws a caustic or corrosive or highly flammable substance on someone else with the intent of injuring his/her flesh or disfiguring his / her body. PC 244 breaks down the definition of assault with caustic chemicals to mean:
- With willful and malicious intent,
- You throw or cause to be thrown or place,
- Any highly flammable or vitriol substance,
- Onto someone,
- To injure his/her body or disfigure him/her.
A chemical is said to be caustic if it can destroy, burn, or injure bodily tissues. They include vitriol or highly flammable substances. The term vitriol substance refers to corrosive substances, such as sulphuric acid.
As per PC 244, flammable materials having a degree of less than 150 Fahrenheit flashpoints are categorized as caustic substances. For instance, there is gasoline, which has a flashpoint of -40 degrees Fahrenheit and, as such, is highly flammable. Other products that are classified as caustic substances include certain oil-based paints, specific cleaning solutions, and diesel.
Caustic substances are capable of damaging the skin. Flammable materials are substances that require a slight amount of heat to catch fire. These materials are highly susceptible to heat, and they can easily ignite.
Caustic substances can burn your skin beyond repair. The duration in which the caustic substance will stay in contact with your body directly impacts on the degree of injury that it will cause on your body. Also, concentrated caustic substances are more dangerous than less concentrated ones.
Buffer solutions may be used to mitigate the severity of the burns inflicted upon your body by the caustic chemicals. It’s important, however, to provide to the doctor the label of the chemical that affected you for you to be well treated.
Caustic Chemicals and the Occupational Safety and Health Act
The California Occupational Safety and Health Act provides various rules in workplaces regarding the storage and use of caustic substances because they are considered to be generally harmful. If you disregard these rules and regulations and cause an injury, you may face charges for assault with a caustic chemical. Caustic substances must be carefully used to avoid accidents at workplaces.
The Burden of Proof in Cases Involving Assault with Caustic Chemicals
The burden of proof in cases involving assault with caustic chemicals usually rests with the prosecution. The degree of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution should, therefore, reach this standard when proving the elements of the crime for assault with caustic chemicals. Failure to discharge this standard of proof will lead to the acquittal of the defendant.
What the Prosecution Should Prove in Cases Involving Assault with Caustic Chemicals
For the prosecution to secure a conviction against you of the offense of assault with caustic chemicals, they must prove that the act was ‘willful’ and ‘malicious.’ If you do something on purpose, you will be held to have acted willfully. If you do a wrongful act on purpose intending to injure, annoy or defraud or disturb someone, you will be held to have done that thing maliciously.
The prosecution, therefore, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that indeed, your action was willful and malicious. To prove this aspect, the prosecution will be required to provide eye witness testimonies and other corroborating evidence like camera footage.
Secondly, the prosecution must also prove that the substance used during the assault was a caustic substance. This means that the substance used was either a flammable substance, vitriol, or a corrosive chemical in nature. The prosecution must establish and prove beyond doubt that the nature of the substance could cause bodily harm.
Finally, the prosecution must also prove that your action was accentuated by a malicious intention to cause the victim disfigurement or injury. Where, for instance, you accidentally split a caustic chemical on someone, you may have a valid defense to the charge of assault with a caustic chemical.
Penalties for Assault using Caustic Chemicals
The criminal offense of assault using a caustic chemical is categorized as a felony in the state of California. The typical criminal penalties for felonies, therefore, apply. The potential penalties include a state prison term of 2 – 4 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
It is expected for the prosecution to try as much as possible to secure reparation damages. Reparation damages are paid to the victim to compensate them for the damages or medical costs that they incurred because of the assault. They may also cover for disfigurement and disability brought about by the assault, as well as mental anguish and pain and suffering.
You can also be placed on probation, but in this case, you will have to first serve not less than a one-year jail term. Also, you may be required to comply with certain probation conditions such as reinstating the victim, taking part in community-based projects, and meeting regularly with a probation officer. Furthermore, you may be issued with a restraining order that forbids you to harass or go close to the victim.
You should consult with a criminal attorney to avoid a wrongful conviction. A criminal defense attorney may assist you in obtaining an acquittal, a dismissal, a charge reduction, or at the very least – sentence mitigation.
The Legal Defenses to Assault using Caustic Chemicals
There are various defenses to the charge of assault using caustic chemicals. Some of them include false accusations, self-defense, accident, or a lawful act. In specific instances, the defense of acting in a moral obligation to discipline your child may also be available. Furthermore, your attorney may revolve around the facts of your case to engineer a suitable defense to your lawsuit. Here are some of the legal defenses to the offense of assault with a caustic chemical:
The defense of self-defense includes in its scope defending others. Defense of self and defense of others is a viable defense against the charge of assault using a caustic chemical. You can illustrate to the court that you prevented the victim from causing an attack against you or someone else. When utilizing this defense, you should demonstrate how it was justifiable for you to utilize force to protect yourself or someone else from impending danger.
You should also convince the jury members that you used reasonable force in preventing the commission or the infliction of pain against yourself or another person. The test to determine whether you defended yourself or others entails the establishment of the following:
- You reasonably believed that there was imminent danger of being killed, injured, or touched unlawfully
- You reasonably believed that only force could be used to avert the impending danger from occurring
- The force used was necessary and not excessive
For instance, maybe the accused person was trying to rape your wife, and you poured on him a corrosive substance to protect your wife from the heinous act. In such a case, this defense will be sustained, and you may be acquitted.
2. False Accusation
You can fight the charge of assault with caustic substances by telling the court that you are facing false accusations. In a criminal court trial for assault with caustic chemicals, the prosecution mainly presupposes that you inflicted fear to the victim by threatening to injure him/her. It isn’t a requirement for the prosecutor to prove the actual infliction of bodily injury. As such, physical bruises are unnecessary to prove the charge of assault with caustic chemicals.
Where the victim suffers no bodily harm, you can easily deny the charge, because it is widely known that people are more likely to be accused of assault out of jealousy, revenge, or anger. If this defense of false accusation prevails, you may get an acquittal or a dismissal.
3. You Did Not Use a Caustic Chemical
The charge of assault with a caustic chemical is only sustainable if you used a specific corrosive or flammable chemical or fluid that is enlisted in California’s assault laws. It can be quite a tall order for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you utilized a caustic substance, especially if the victim doesn’t precisely know which fluid you had. If the prosecution fails to reach the standard of proof required, your case will be dismissed.
4. You Didn’t Act Willfully
California PC 244 illustrates that the charge of assault using caustic chemicals can only hold water if the accused person acted willfully. If your defense attorney establishes that you did not act on purpose or wilfully, but you acted accidentally, your charges may be dropped.
For instance, where an employer unintentionally violates the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act on the storage of caustic chemicals, and an employee is accidentally injured by a caustic chemical in the workplace, the employer shall not be criminally liable for the offense of assault using caustic chemicals. However, he/she has a legal obligation to compensate the victim. The victim can institute a work injury lawsuit against the employer to recover damages.
5. Violation of Human Rights
The law enforcement officer may contravene the law while investigating and arresting you for assault. For instance, they may have subjected you to torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or prevented you from reaching out to your attorney at the point of arrest. Some investigating officers may attempt to acquire evidence through illegal means. Note that illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in the state of California. If it is found out that your human rights were violated before, during, and after an arrest, you will obtain an acquittal as per the tenets of the Federal Constitution.
Related Offenses to Assault Using Caustic Chemicals
Some offenses in California are closely related to the crime of assault using a caustic chemical. Most of these related offenses are less severe forms of California’s assault and battery laws and are generally used in plea bargaining. The effect of these related offenses in plea bargaining is that if charged with as an alternative count to the charge of assault using caustic chemicals, the defendant may serve shorter imprisonment sentences, or they may increase the likelihood of being sentenced to probation instead of incarceration. Some examples of related offenses to assault using caustic chemicals include:
1. Assault Using Deadly Weapons
As per PC 245(a)1, it is unlawful to utilize a deadly weapon to inflict significant bodily injury on another person. If you use a gun, whether loaded or unloaded, to hit a victim, you will be charged with the offense of assault using deadly weapons. Machetes also qualify as lethal weapons, while the use of body parts such as fists and feet to hit another person does not meet the elements needed for the charge of assault with deadly weapons.
Though the offense of assault using a deadly weapon is closely related to assault with a caustic chemical, these two offenses differ in the following:
- For a person to be convicted of assault using caustic chemicals, the chemical must have come into contact with the body of the victim while a defendant may be found guilty of assault using a lethal weapon by merely attempting to touch the other person
- In a case of assault using a lethal weapon, the defendant must have used excessive force that could easily result in physical injuries, while a person accused of assault using caustic chemicals may be held guilty even though the chemical didn’t cause harm to the body of the victim
The offense of assault using a deadly weapon is a 'wobbler.’ As such, it can be prosecuted as a felony or as a misdemeanor, depending on the following factors:
- If the used weapon was a firearm
- The gravity of the injury to the victim
- If the victim is a public official
You will be automatically charged with felony assault using a deadly weapon if you utilized a firearm to cause serious physical injury to a public official. The punishments for felony assault using a deadly weapon are the same as those for the offense of assault with caustic chemicals. As a misdemeanor, the offense of assault with a deadly weapon will attract a county jail term of a maximum of one year or a fine not exceeding $1,000.
2. Assault on a Public Official
An assault on a public official charge may be preferred against you if you cause physical injuries on a public official or his/her immediate family member. If the prosecution establishes that you committed an act of assault with an intention to obstruct the public official from performing his/her duties, you will be convicted of this offense.
Under Penal Code 217.1(a), a public official may include a former judge or juror, a governor of any state, prosecutor, or mayor, among others. PC 217.1(a) also protects the immediate family members of these public officials.
The offense of assault on a public official may take the form of assault by a caustic chemical. Where, for instance, you use a corrosive chemical to threaten a public official for him/her to be obstructed from accomplishing his/her duties, you will be held guilty of the offense of assault on a public official.
The prosecutor must determine the motive of the accused in a criminal court trial for assault on a public official. This motive should be mainly to hinder the public official from discharging his/her duties.
This offense is a wobbler, and the California Department for Prosecution may charge it as either a felony or a wobbler. When convicted of misdemeanor assault on a public official, you risk facing a county jail term of a maximum of one year or a fine of up to one year. As a felony, it may attract a state prison sentence of up to three years or a fine whose maximum value is $10,000.
3. Simple Battery
The offense of assault with caustic chemicals can be described as one of California’s forms of the crime of 'battery.' Under Penal Code 240, the California crime of Assault is described as an attempt or threat to use force or violence. However, PC 242 defines battery as the infliction of actual force or violence to someone.
Because the offense of assault with caustic chemicals requires that the chemical comes into physical contact with the victim’s body, it can be categorized as a form of battery. A simple battery is one of the least severe forms of battery, and it is always charged as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a county jail term of a maximum of six months or a fine of up to $2000.
4. Throwing Dangerous Objects at Motor Vehicles
If you maliciously and willfully throw a harmful or dangerous object at a car, such as brick, bottle, rock, metal, or missile, you may be charged with the criminal offense of throwing dangerous objects at motor vehicles. The California Department of Prosecution can also opt to charge you with this crime instead of, or alongside the offense of assault with caustic chemicals if you throw vitriol, a corrosive, or highly flammable substance at a motor vehicle.
The offense of throwing dangerous objects at motor vehicles is normally charged as a felony. Its punishments include a state prison sentence of up to three years or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The offense of assault with a caustic chemical has grievous penalties. Specifically, it attracts hefty fines and life-altering jail or state prison sentences. However, if you have a competent legal team defending you, you may obtain a more favorable outcome.
Are you facing a charge of assault with caustic substances in Orange County? If yes, you can reach out to us at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer. Don't put your future at risk by attempting to speak out for yourself. Call us today at 714-262-4833 for a free case evaluation. We are here to help you.