The law makes any conduct that can result in harm to somebody else illegal. While many assaults are executed with firearms, it is also illegal to use non-conventional weapons like caustic chemicals to attempt to hurt or injure another. Due to the increased fear of the spread of terrorism and chemical warfare in Riverside, violation of PC 244 carries more severe penalties than related assault crimes. It is a California felony that requires solid legal representation. Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can advise you about the available legal defenses, the need for in-depth independent investigations, plea bargain, and the possible case outcome. Since each criminal case is unique, we can evaluate your situation independently, considering your life and legal representation objectives.
Defining California Penal Code 244
Penal Code Section 244 makes it an offense for an individual to maliciously and intentionally throw, place, cause to be thrown or placed, upon another's person,
- a caustic chemical,
- a flammable substance,
- corrosive acid, or
intending to disfigure the victim's body or injure their flesh.
The above definition outlines the key elements of the crime that the prosecution team must verify beyond a reasonable doubt before convicting you.
A caustic chemical is a chemical that can corrode or burn natural tissues like body organs due to chemical reactions. Specific flashpoints determine flammable substances. A flashpoint is the least temperature that a liquid forms adequate vapor above its surface, igniting the substance or setting it on fire. The higher the flashpoint, the harder the chemical ignites.
PC 244 defines flammable substances and caustic chemicals as follows:
- Petroleum products like kerosene, crude oil, liquified petroleum gas, sulfur, motor oil, and diesel oil
- Flammable liquids with a flashpoint that does not exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit, such as oil-based paint, cleaning solvents, and mineral oil
Vitriol is a form of caustic substance like caustic acid, among other related compounds.
You Acted Maliciously and Willfully
You act maliciously when you deliberately commit a crime or act with the illegal intent to injure, defraud, disturb, or annoy another person.
You act willfully when you intentionally engage in something.
Penalties and Consequences of Violating PC 244
Assault with caustic chemicals is charged as a California felony, punishable by the following penalties:
- Up to four years in state prison
- A maximum of ten thousand dollars
Instead of incarceration, the judge might sentence you to formal (felony) probation. If placed on probation, you must comply with the following terms and conditions:
- Community supervision
- Paying restitution
- Submitting to drug or alcohol testing
- Frequent meetings with the probation officer
- Completing a treatment program
- Counseling like anger management, domestic violence counseling, or sex offender
- Paying court costs
- Agreeing not to break any other law
- Engaging in community service
- Abstaining from substance abuse
- Staying away and not harassing the alleged victim(s)
Fighting Your PC 244 Criminal Charges
Most of the legal defenses that apply to other types of assaults can also be viable when fighting assault with caustic chemicals charges. Your seasoned criminal defense lawyer should review your case’s circumstances to determine a legal strategy for the best possible case outcome.
Common defenses include the below:
Claiming that Your Conduct Was an Accident
When you use this legal defense, you admit to committing the crime. The attorney claims that even if you caused the caustic chemical contact, it was an accident. The defense lawyer requires the prosecution to handle complicated topics like intent, will, and malice that can be challenging to establish.
You Acted in Self-Defense or Defense of Other People
This legal defense applies if all the following statements are correct:
- There was a reasonable belief of an imminent threat of being touched illegally, injured, or killed
- You thought that using force was essential to stop the danger from occurring
- You used reasonable force to prevent the imminent danger
You Did Not Act Willfully or Maliciously
One of the crime facts that the prosecution should verify before convicting you of PC 244 is that you acted willfully or maliciously. That means you cannot be sentenced if you injured another accidentally, even when:
- You were criminally negligent, or
- The alleged victim was seriously injured.
The Accused Person Did Not Plan to Disfigure or Harm the Victim
You can only be sentenced for the offense in question if you intended to injure or disfigure the victim. Please note that while this defense relates to acting maliciously, it is different.
The Chemical You Used Was Not Dangerous
Since PC 244 only applies to specific chemicals, there might be legal, fact-specific defenses that relate to the execution of the crime.
If there are doubts on the question of the person that threw or placed the caustic chemical on the victim, your legal professional might use the mistaken identity legal defense. The lawyer might argue that you did not have the required mental state to commit the alleged crime in an applicable case.
The Defendant's Allegations are Not True
A person doesn't need to be sentenced for assault only when the victim has visible injuries. If a person can press criminal charges without sustaining injuries, it means they can falsify a claim due to vengeance, anger, or jealousy. If the state presents evidence against you, the lawyer can claim that you are falsely accused.
Many offenses related to PC 244 can be charged alongside or in place of the crime in question. Some are less severe versions of battery and assault laws. Therefore, prosecutors and the defense lawyers might use them in plea bargaining to allow defendants:
- Serve shorter sentences
- Serve time in county jail
- Increase the probability of being placed on probation instead of serving time
Common related crimes to Penal Code Section 244 include:
Simple Battery (PC 242)
PC 242 defines simple battery as the application of force or use of violence against another. It is prosecuted as a misdemeanor that attracts the following maximum penalties:
- Two thousand dollars in fines
- A six-month county jail sentence
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
You can only be found guilty of PC 245(a)(1) if you applied force that could cause great bodily injuries. Moreover, you can be convicted of the crime by touching or trying to harm somebody else.
ADW is a wobbler. In other words, it is either a California felony or a misdemeanor depending on:
- whether the weapon used was a firearm,
- the severity of the alleged injuries, or
- whether the alleged victim belonged to the protected class.
A felony carries the same penalties as a PC 244 conviction.
If charged with misdemeanor ADW, you will spend a year in jail and pay fines of one thousand dollars.
What to Do When Charged With an Offense
Assault with a caustic chemical is a felony. A conviction can result in penalties that can affect you even after serving time. Luckily, you can avoid these consequences by taking the necessary steps, including:
Contacting a Skilled Lawyer Following the Arrest
All moments in your criminal case are critical because witnesses can relocate to another state or evidence disappear, making it challenging to collect proof to defend the case. Engaging a lawyer makes sure that you get the most effective defense because they can work to protect your future and rights.
Moreover, when charged with PC 244, you will face a prosecutor who understands the law technicalities better than you. The prosecution knows how to sell deals that you believe are beneficial. However, in reality, they might not be in your best interests. Consulting with an attorney evens the playing field and can relieve you of the challenges of self-representation.
Remain Polite and Relax
Remaining calm can be challenging to recall, particularly if you do not understand why the law enforcers are arresting you or think you are innocent. Aggressive police officers interviewing you can make the situation more scary and frustrating.
Nevertheless, even when you think the police have violated your constitutional rights, or you are wrongfully arrested, don't argue with the law enforcers or resist arrest. Arguing or resisting could lead to more criminal charges.
Exercise the Constitutional Right to Remain Silent
Probably you have heard the words, "You have the right to remain silent…" in TV shows and movies. The entitlement to remain silent isn't something made up because it sounds good on television.
The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the entitlement to refuse to incriminate yourself in your case. The only method to avoid self-incrimination is remaining silent.
If you find yourself arrested, do not answer the questions and tell the officers that you won't respond without your criminal defense attorney present. You don't have to be violent toward the officers to exercise the right.
Understand the Charges You're Facing
A felony attracts severe penalties and consequences. The defendant might also lose specific rights once they are released. For instance, they might lose the right to possess firearms or vote.
Don't Post Bail Without Talking to Your Lawyer
Most defendants make the error of posting their bail immediately after they've been arrested. It's often a bad idea, especially when facing a felony.
You need to first talk with a seasoned defense lawyer who can assist you decide wisely by doing the below:
- The defense lawyer can analyze the case facts and tell whether the bail amount will be reduced or have you released without posting bail
- Typically, bond dealers charge a premium of ten percent of the total bail amount. If you retain a lawyer, some bondsmen can allow you to get a reduction in your premium from 10% to 7%. If your total bail amount is one hundred thousand dollars, there is a saving of three thousand dollars in your bail bond charges.
- The attorney can tell you whether your criminal charges are likely to be dropped at the arraignment (initial court hearing). If that occurs, you will be released within a couple of days without posting bail.
Your first call after the arrest should be to a seasoned defense lawyer who can guide you and help you save lots of money.
Be Truthful to the Lawyer
Your legal counsel should know the correct information about the criminal case to effectively prepare for the criminal case and offer the required defense. Therefore, you should be honest with the expert throughout the judicial process.
Most people fear telling their lawyer the truth. That's why you need to understand that all details you share with the professional are confidential. The attorney-client privilege protects your relationship, and if the attorney shares your case details, they could face discipline from the state bar, including losing their professional license.
Show Up in Court In all Court Hearings
PC 977b requires that a defendant charged with a felony appear for their arraignment, preliminary hearings, during the plea, trial when evidence is presented to the judge, and sentencing. The court places the burden on the defendant to be aware of when the proceedings are occurring and attend.
Ensure you create a calendar of the proceedings and set alarms and reminders to avoid missing the dates. Failing to attend the scheduled court hearings could lead to the issuing of your arrest warrant.
Develop a List of Witnesses
You should write down the names and contact details of all persons who could testify favorably on your behalf.
Begin writing down the names of witnesses who might have seen you commit the assault with caustic chemicals. The attorney can contact the witnesses to check whether their side of the story corresponds with yours.
You should also gather the name and details of any person who can testify to your good character. The witnesses can help you demonstrate to the judge that you would not commit the felony offense.
Write Down Everything You Recall
You can only give a lawyer precise information if it's fresh in your mind. The most effective way to make sure it remains fresh is to write down what you recall about the alleged criminal activity. Ensure you include who you were with or your whereabouts when the offense occurred.
The prosecutor will start documenting everything about you from when you're arrested for building their case against you. That's why you need to have the correct details.
Avoid Taking To Your Loved One About Your Arrest
Confidentiality rules don't protect your conversations with your loved one, and the prosecution team can use anything you say against you.
Nevertheless, the California Rules of Evidence give spouses an amount of control over whether they'll testify in a case against their spouse. Therefore, the prosecutor can't compel your partner to testify against you if they do not want to do so.
Use of Witness Testimonies in Assault With Caustic Chemicals Cases
Like other assault crimes, the prosecutor should prove assault with caustic chemicals beyond any reasonable doubt. In other words, the prosecutor requires the proper proof to demonstrate that you violated the law. On the flip side, if you have evidence to prove your innocence, you might not be convicted.
One of the most potent pieces of evidence is witness testimonies. A witness is any person whose testimony under oath or affirmation is provided as proof. A witness can be the perpetrator, eyewitnesses, experts, or even the alleged victim.
Sometimes accused persons wonder if their charges will be dismissed if the victim does not want to testify. It depends on your case circumstances. The prosecutor might sometimes choose to proceed with your case if there is:
- surveillance videotapes in a public place,
- recording of a 911 call, or
- any other proof that the prosecutor could use in place of victim testimony about what occurred.
There are rules against hearsay evidence. Hearsay comprises an out-of-court statement that the prosecution can use to demonstrate the reality of what was said. Although hearsays are not admissible in court, there are exemptions. For instance, a witness might testify, and surveillance tape might display that the defendant advanced on the alleged victim a caustic chemical. A 911 call might include the alleged victim claiming that you are injuring them. The 911 call could also have you making a threat. Your skilled defense attorney can analyze whether the exception might apply to the criminal case evidence.
Should You Plead Guilty and Avoid a Trial?
When deciding on whether to proceed to trial or plead guilty, you have a lot to consider. The risk of being found guilty is significant, causing most innocent persons to plead guilty to prevent them. Your defense attorney could discuss the benefits and disadvantages of all options, but it's up to you to make the ultimate decision.
Benefits of Pleading Guilty
When you plead guilty, you are confronting your charges face-on. That means you can resolve your case faster than waiting for months or even years for a trial.
Also, the lawyer's cost is less when your attorney doesn't have to represent you at the trial.
Pleading guilty prevents the uncertainty of a trial. The prosecution might uncover more evidence, increasing the possibility of being convicted. Moreover, a trial is a public ordeal, so pleading guilty avoids media attention and doesn't subject your loved ones to unnecessary attention.
Pleading guilty involves you and the prosecutor agreeing on the sentence you should receive. In return, you might face reduced criminal charges or a lighter sentence.
Disadvantages of Pleading Guilty
Innocent persons might face penalties like going to prison and paying fines for offenses that they didn't commit. Additionally, they will have a criminal record following them for life.
The judge is tasked with sentencing. If they do not like the sentence recommended by your lawyer or the prosecutor, they can reject it and impose a more severe sentence.
Deciding Whether to Plead Guilty
Before pleading guilty, you should remember that although the prosecution's offer might seem like a nice gesture, the prosecution is neither your friend nor legal counsel. They might convince you that it is in your best interests to take the deal on their terms or risk facing a more severe offense with harsher consequences. Sometimes plea bargains are offered because the state evidence against you is weak, and the prosecution thinks they might lose at trial.
It would be best if you analyzed whether the offer is in your best interest. A conviction comes with many consequences on top of paying fines and serving time.
Common Questions About California PC 244
If charged with a crime, you might feel worried about your future, freedom, and rights and have many questions. Below are some of the frequently asked questions about the assault with caustic chemicals.
1. What is the Statute of Limitations for Violating PC 244?
Since PC 244 is a felony, the statute of limitations is three years from the alleged crime date. However, some exemptions can toll the statute of limitations.
2. What Does It Mean in the Long Run to Get an Assault with Caustic Chemicals Conviction?
Sometimes the California judicial system considers assault with a corrosive substance as a battery. That means the defendant might face two criminal charges. A criminal record can ruin your reputation, making it challenging to redeem yourself. You might also experience challenges securing opportunities in some educational institutions and firms.
3. Is Pepper Spraying Another Violation of PC 244?
No. California recognizes pepper spray as a method for citizens to protect their well-being. When you spray the content of the vaporizer can towards the assailant's face, you inconvenience their ability to breathe and see correctly, which results in incapacitation. Pepper spray is lawfully sold in California, and you can carry and use it for self-defense.
4. Is the Police Permitted to Search My Motor Vehicle or Home?
You are entitled to property and privacy rights. Law enforcers are only permitted to search your house or car if they have probable cause, a warrant, or after giving them consent to do so. You should not consent to a police search of your property, and you shouldn't feel pressured to do so. If you think you are a victim of unlawful search and seizure, contact your defense lawyer immediately to protect your rights.
Seek Skilled Criminal Defense Representation in Riverside
When arrested for PC 244, you might panic and experience fear after realizing the uphill battle ahead of you. The severity of a conviction and its potential penalties and repercussions require an aggressive Riverside lawyer with a specific degree of knowledge and experience to handle your case. Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm has vital insight, negotiation skills, and legal skills to build a robust defense. Contact us today at 951-946-6366 for a free case review and mapping out your legal strategy.