Federal Environmental Crimes: The Basics

June 2018

Some environmental crimes are so obscure, many of us never even know they exist. But actually, they are the most commonly charged crime for organizations. In fact, 33% of all crimes committed by organizations are environmental crimes. Organizations are defined as corporations, partnerships, unions, trusts, pension funds and non-profits. Of those environmental crimes, 70% were water-related, 17% wildlife, 8% hazardous materials and 5% air related. While these are the most common organizational crimes, it should also be noted that more than half of organizational crimes also involve an individual who is charged separately as well.

Most federal crimes are brought by the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney. Environmental crimes are a more specialized type of crime and are typically investigated by and charges are brought by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most of the crimes charged by the EPA fall under very specific acts – the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Resource and Conservation Act, among others. Defending against these types of charges requires specific knowledge and experience in environmental crimes.

As you may have caught on, these are typically federal charges, rather than state criminal charges. This means your attorney should have extensive experience in federal court. The differences between state and federal court are plenty. There are deadlines your attorney will be required to meet and missing just one of those deadlines could drastically affect your case.

Federal environmental crimes tend to fall into 4 categories: pollution crimes, wildlife crimes, animal welfare crimes and worker safety crimes. There are numerous Federal Acts under which these types of crimes can be charged. Conviction of environmental crimes for an organization can be a devastating fine – for individuals, it could be a fine and incarceration. When creating a defense to a criminal charge, it should be based on the exact Act under which the crime was charged.

The good news? We have experience in environmental crimes, federal court, and fashioning defenses to achieve our client’s goals. We have experience defending both organizations and individuals against environmental crimes.

Whether you are an individual or organization, whether you’ve been charged or anticipate charges, give us a call today. We are here to guide you through the process and obtain the best result to fit your specific wants and needs.