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Federal Environmental Schemes

Federal environmental enforcement plays a crucial role in protecting the human health, wildlife, clean air, and clean water of the United States. Federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act not only have civil penalties, but also criminal penalties for individuals or entities who either knowingly or negligently commit environmental violations.

Given the length and level of detail of these acts, it can be difficult to fully understand Michigan federal environmental schemes. However, if you were accused of violating a federal environmental act, a well-versed federal attorney could sit down with you to help you fully understand the laws and your rights.

Interagency Cooperation

When a federal environmental crime occurs in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and either the enforcement divisions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (if the crime involves a violation of federal air or water quality standards or hazardous waste) or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (if the violation involves endangered species or wildlife trafficking) work collaboratively together to investigate the crime.

Common Offenses in Michigan

Most Michigan federal environmental schemes involve the knowing or intentional violations of environmental laws. Some common types of federal environmental violations include:

  • Oil spills
  • Illegal handling, transportation, or disposal of hazardous waste and pesticides
  • Illegal discharges of polluted water
  • Inadequate or nonexistent pollution control measures
  • International and domestic trafficking of endangered species
  • Unlawful commercial exploitation of protected species

While some of these crimes involve individuals, most major environmental federal crimes involve medium- to large-sized manufacturers or generators involved in the energy, transportation, and chemical sectors.

Criminal Penalties for a Federal Environmental Scheme

Each federal environmental law has its own criminal penalties depending on what section of the law a person or entity violated. For example, the Clean Air Act includes 11 criminal provisions with penalties ranging from monetary fines to up to 15 years in prison.

The Clean Water Act has 12 criminal provisions with penalties ranging from fines of up to $1 million and prison time between two to 15 years. Criminal violations of the Endangered Species Act result in up to one year in prison and fines of up to $50,000. Finally, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has eight criminal provisions with penalties ranging from two to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000 per day of violations.

Facing Charges

As opposed to civil lawsuits, where the burden of proof is based upon the preponderance of the evidence, the prosecutor or plaintiff in a criminal environmental lawsuit must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime at hand. This is the highest standard of proof to meet.

A statute of limitations dictates how much time a prosecutor or plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit against a defendant. Most, if not all, federal environmental laws do not explicitly establish a statute of limitations for civil or criminal violations. Thus, the general five-year statute of limitations for federal crimes applies. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 3282, a lawsuit for a federal crime must be brought within five years from the date the alleged offense occurred, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Someone facing charges for being involved in Michigan federal environmental schemes may want to obtain the services of a seasoned defense lawyer.

Speaking to a Michigan Attorney About Federal Environmental Schemes

Many Michigan federal environmental schemes involve multiple entities and agencies. Therefore, it is easy for a layperson to quickly become overwhelmed by the investigation process and charges.

If you have been charged with a federal environmental crime in Michigan, make sure to contact an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call today to set up a free consultation.

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