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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

Is corrosive acid a “deadly weapon” if used in an assault offense?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2023 | assault and battery

Corrosive substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide have plenty of uses. They’re used for making things such as batteries and fertilizer, cleaning, or lab work. But these substances are also incredibly harmful to humans; contact with highly corrosive substances can cause chemical burn injuries.

Because these substances are so harmful, some might think they’re the perfect weapon to stage an assault crime on someone because it’s as easy as dousing a person with water. Or someone was looking to destroy the physical appearance of another person by using acid.

But would using an acid or similarly corrosive substance in an attack count as assault with a deadly weapon?

Assault with acid is a separate offense

North Carolina law has a provision on the malicious throwing of corrosive acid, considered a separate offense from assault or assault with a deadly weapon. A person who knowingly throws any corrosive acid or alkali with the intent to murder, maim or disfigure and inflicts serious injury on the victim violates this very specific assault law.

This offense is a Class E felony and remains at that criminal grade regardless of the extent of the chemical burns suffered by the victim.

By comparison, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill is also a Class E felony offense. But it can become a Class C felony if the assault manages to inflict serious injury.

Penalties for malicious throwing of acid

If a court convicts a person of malicious throwing of acid, they face up to 88 months of prison time. This is the same penalty faced by those convicted of discharging a firearm from within an enclosure, breaking or entering a pharmacy, and arson resulting in serious bodily injury.

So, using corrosive acid isn’t a deadly weapon in the context of an assault offense, but it’s still a heinous crime that can lead to serious injuries. Those who face charges should keep in mind that the offense is still a felony, so they should consider building a strong defense for their court hearing.