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Assault With Caustic Chemicals or Flammable Substances

California Penal Code distinguish different types of assaults: simple assault, assault with deadly weapon, assault with caustic chemicals and assault on a public official. A crime of assault with caustic chemicals is a variation of assault, as an ordinary California assault. Some of assaults could be classified as a misdemeanor and other conducts be considered felony, and this classification is important to diminish or aggravate the punishment. An assault with chemicals is punished as a felony under California Criminal Law, whereas a simple assault is qualified as a misdemeanor. Thus, the penalty for assault with caustic chemicals is more serious and hard than similar offensives.

Under the section 244 of California Penal Code, the legislator defines what is considered assault with caustic chemicals or flammable substances, "Any person who willfully and maliciously places or throws, or causes to be placed or thrown, upon the person of another, any vitriol, corrosive acid, flammable substance, or caustic chemical of any nature, with the intent to injure the flesh or disfigure the body of that person, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years."

As used in this section, “flammable substance” means gasoline, petroleum products, or flammable liquids with a flashpoint of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or less." The definition of caustic chemicals by the Webster'’ New International Dictionary: substance capable of destroying the texture of anything or eating away its substance by chemical action; burning; corrosive.

Further, it is important to clarify that this crime does not requires an attempt, by that, for someone being convicted of assault with caustic chemicals, the chemical or the substance must touch the victim. The touch must occurs in this scenario, the touching is necessary to qualify this type of crime. Section 244 requires proof of the fact the the acid actually touched the person of another. Furthermore, if someone attempt to throw or tried to place a substance upon another person and failed to do so, this person could not be convicted of this type of assault.

The elements of this type of assault is different than the others. Here, if any quantity of acid is thrown or placed upon another person, if it is done with intent, wilfully and maliciously to injure or to disfigure an extent the body of another, it would be qualified as an assault with caustic chemical. 1So, the quantity of the substance used to injure someone is not important to satisfy the requirement, a small portion of chemical substance is enough to qualify and charge someone with assault with caustic chemicals.

Thus, the elements that the prosecution must prove in court for someone to be convicted of assault with caustic chemicals are: (1) the defendant willfully and maliciously placed, threw or caused to be placed or thrown any caustic chemical; (2) the defendant must had intention to injure another person or disfigure the victim's body.

(1) Willfully and maliciously act.

A person is acting in a willful way, when the intention is to do something on purpose, when there is no intent to hurt someone, gain advantage or break the law. And the prosecution must prove that the defendant placed, threw, caused to placed or caused to be thrown the chemical.2 The evidence necessary to proof is that the person, the defendant, willfully committed a conduct that by its nature will probably and directly result in injury to another person. The prosecution must show that the defendant intentionally engaged in an act that would produce detrimental consequences.
In other to a person be convicted of assault with caustic chemicals, the criminal conduct must be acted with malice, meaning, that the defendant wrongful acted intentionally, or acted with the unlawful intent to disturb, defraud, annoy or injure another person.3 The nature of malice is intent to vex, annoy, or injure another and it does not require a specific intent to maim or disfigure.

Example 1:


1People v. Day, Supreme Court of California, July 1, 1926199 Cal. 78248 p.250
2CALCRIM 877
3CALCRIM 877.

Peter works in a factory that produce hazard chemicals. Peter noticed that the chemicals were not properly stored. Further, Peter made a formal complaint to his boss, Clark about the issue. Clark ignored his complaint and later on, Peter got injured because while he was working, the one of the chemicals felt at his face and caused him serious bodily injury.

In this scenario, Clark did not have intent to cause injury to Peter, so there was no willfully act and no intent to injure the victim. However, the company and Clark could be responsible under Torts Law, acting in a negligence way.

Example 2:
Katie and Jessica were at a gas station filling up the Jessica's car. Katie's ex boyfriend, John, showed up and tried to talk with Katie, who did not want to talk with him. Jessica was furious because John used to be bad boyfriend for Katie. For that reason, Jessica, suddenly, used the gas pump to spray gasoline on top of John's head. Here, she intentionally threw gasoline on top his head.

In this case, Jessica can be charged as an assault with caustic chemicals, because gasoline counts as a chemical substance under California Law. Further, she acted in a willfully way, she intended to injury John and the chemical touched the victim's body.


(2) Intention to injury another

To determine the crime defined by section 244, the conduct of the defendant must accompanying with intent to injure the flesh or disfigure the other person's body. 4Overall, there must be constitute an overt act, intent, and ability to cause the injury.


4CALCRIM 877

Example: Jennifer, a law school student, accused Sarah from having intercourse with her boyfriend, David. To teach Sarah a lesson, Jennifer invited to go for a walk on campus and then suddenly Jennifer spray an acid on Sarah's face, causing her a disfigure in her face.

In this case, Jennifer could be guilty of assault with caustic chemicals, since the acid that she used to threw at Sarah in recognized as a chemical under California Law.

Penalties

An assault with caustic chemical is a felony, could be punishable by a fine not exceeding 10 thousand dollars ($10,000) or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.

Legal defenses

An assault with caustic chemical is a felony, if a person is convicted with this type of crime, the crime is going to be on the person's criminal records. If you are looking for a job and the employer does a criminal background check and there is a assault offense registered, it is likely that the employer won't hire someone with a felony background. If you have been charged with this crime, you should promptly look for a Lawyer. San Diego Criminal Attorney has a great deal of success defending our clients and we can help you build legal defenses that it could be use to contest these types of charges. If you would like more information, please contact our successful staff to help you with your legal problems.

To contest the charges of assault, San Diego Criminal Attorney would be able to use the following legal defenses:

  • There was no intention to act willfully or maliciously :

As explained above the for someone be convicted with this type of assault, the defendant must had acted willfully or malicious way and the prosecution must prove this intention. In some cases, the victim got injured by accident and the defendant had no intention to cause harm to another. San Diego Criminal Attorney could help to build this defense, if this is the case.

  • There was no intent to injure or disfigure the victim

It is important to distinguish that acting willfully or maliciously is different than having a intent to cause injury to another person. Sometimes the actions of the defendant were accidental by the victim. Under this type of defense, it is essential that the defense attorney and the prosecution get the entire facts of the accident. If you have been charged with assault with caustic chemicals make sure you contact an attorney immediately. San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you build a strong defense, if you did not act with intent to injure.

For example, Dave was playing with his brother Alex, and Dave picked up a bottle and threw the liquid onto Alex. Dave thought that there was just water inside of the bottler, but it turned that the bottle contained a strong acid that damage Alex's nose.

In this case, Dave act willfully and maliciously, however, he did not intent to cause injury to his brother, so he should not be guilty of this type of assault, but he would be charged with battery.

  • The conduct was in self-defense or third party defense:

The self-defense theory could be applied in any assault charges if the client reasonably believe that there was an imminent danger of suffering body injury
or being touched unlawfully, there is a reasonable believe that an immediate use of force was necessary to avoid the dangers, and the uses of force was reasonable necessary to defend against the danger. 5The attorneys could use self-defense doctrine to avoid the conviction.


5CALCRIM 3470 - Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide [with respect to acts involving California assault]). ("The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name of third party>) was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.")

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