What Are Environmental Crimes?

Environmental crimes are criminal offenses that put a community at risk due to the release of toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances into the environment. With increasing interest in the protection of ecosystems and public health, the penalties for environmental criminal convictions can be severe and involve lengthy prison sentences, probation, and costly fines.

Federal statutes that protect the environment include:

  • The Clean Water Act
  • The Clean Air Act
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
  • The Toxic and Substances Control Act (TSCA)

Those statutes include criminal provisions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) can apply to businesses and/or individuals in the event of statute violations. The EPA is the agency that investigates potential environmental crimes, and if they prosecute a corporation or individual, the burden of proof is on the EPA investigators.

Common Types of Environmental Crimes

Environmental crimes include violations of any state regulations or federal statutes that aim to protect the environment and the local communities. Whether a prosecutor charges an environmental crime at the state or federal levels depends on the case specifics.

This type of offense covers a wide range of activities such as:

  • Altering a streambed
  • Asbestos violations
  • Chemical spills and explosions
  • Cutting down protected trees
  • Destroying wetlands
  • Exceeding legal limits for pollution
  • Excess smoke emissions
  • Fish and game violations
  • Groundwater contamination
  • Illegal importing of restricted or regulated chemicals
  • Improper storage, treatment, or disposal of dangerous waste
  • Oil spills
  • Unauthorized development

Public health and safety laws often intersect with environmental regulations due to the risks an environmental hazard presents for the local communities, such as contaminated drinking water supplies.

What Are Your Defense Options Against Environmental Criminal Charges?

If you are facing environmental criminal charges, your first step should be to hire a reputable defense lawyer who understands the intricacies of the law. A lawyer can help you cooperate with the authorities while ensuring the protection of your privacy rights.

Your criminal defense lawyer can:

  • Conduct internal investigations
  • Interview witnesses and professional experts
  • Analyze evidence
  • Monitor the EPA investigation to make sure they conduct it fairly
  • Represent you during a state or federal trial
  • Obtain a dismissal or reduction of charges

In environmental criminal cases, the EPA often issues a 104(e) Information Request that you must answer under penalty of perjury. Any inaccurate or incomplete responses can result in additional criminal charges and the EPA and other government agencies could consider that you are trying to cover up the environmental offense. Your attorney can assist you in answering this information request to avoid further accusations.

An environmental criminal defense attorney can negotiate an agreement with governmental agencies. Effective negotiations can prevent lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. Exploring possible environmental offsets can also help repair damages and avoid tarnishing your reputation.

Are you facing accusations of environmental crimes in Tacoma? Contact Hester Law Group today at (253) 300-3034 to schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.