06 Aug 23

Assault With Caustic Chemicals: Penal Code § 244 PC

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Last Updated on: 6th August 2023, 05:30 am

The use of caustic chemicals in everyday life is something that largely focuses on issues that deal with the workings of certain areas of a home or property. However, when such items are used in an attempt to injure one or more people, their usage becomes assault, a crime that can end up leading the conviction and imprisonment of the party committing the act.

Defining a Caustic Chemical

In the California Penal Code, such actions are a violation of PC 244. State law defines a caustic chemical as one that can either burn the existing tissue of another human being or allow it to corrode. Within this definition is a mention of vitriol, which focuses exclusively on sulfuric acid and all aspects connected to this dangerous chemical.

Flammable items whose vapor can ignite at temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or below are also classified as a caustic chemical. That flash point largely focuses on petroleum-based products such as gasoline, which can vary wildly, depending on the particular product in question.

Determining the Basis for Charges

To be charged with assault by use of caustic chemicals, an individual has to have acted in a willful and malicious manner. That means that the act was knowingly committed with the intent to either injure or disfigure another human being and cannot be connected to simple negligence. For example, accidentally spilling such products on someone else doesn’t legally constitute violation of this statute.

Possible Legal Ramifications for Conviction

Given the potentially dangerous circumstances that can result from the commission of this crime, the state of California deems this to be a felony. Conviction can result in a defendant being sentenced to either two, three or four-year prison terms in a state prison.

That defendant can also either be fined up to $10,000 or have up to that amount added in conjunction with his prison sentence. Since this act is considered by the state of California to be a violent crime, it means that a conviction will be considered as a strike in the state’s Three Strikes Law.

The prospect of being sentenced to probation exists, though the defendant will still serve as much as 12 months in a county jail. In addition. a possible fine and agreement to certain conditions could also be assessed. Those conditions can involve paying restitution to the victim and obeying any protective orders in place, community service and regular visits to either therapy or a probation officer.

Legal Defenses

If an individual is charged with assault with caustic chemicals, there are legal defenses that can be offered on that person’s behalf. As previously noted, mere negligence doesn’t meet the legal standard for willful and malicious from a criminal standpoint, though civil litigation may serve as a legal remedy. Judging the intent of a defendant in these cases can focus on their mindset at the time they either placed or threw the caustic material or caused it to be placed or thrown.

Another component that can be used as a legal defense is one that’s able to show that a person used a caustic chemical on someone else in either self-defense or defense of others. That would result in showing that:

  • The force used was no more than legally required
  • The person reasonably believed that they were in immediate danger
  • That individual determined that such force was necessary to stop the potential harm

Plea Bargain Possibilities

A plea bargain may end up resulting in reducing the charges in question to something like:

  • Simple assault or battery
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Battery causing serious bodily injury
  • Mayhem and aggravated mayhem

Obtaining Legal Help

Given the serious nature of such charges and the potential penalties involved, it’s imperative that anyone charged with assault with caustic chemicals seek legal assistance immediately. That will allow for a vigorous defense of your legal rights and ensure that you are given proper representation in this important matter. Attempting to fight this battle on your own can result in a loss of your freedom, a steep fine or both, so make sure to make the wise decision when that time arrives.