Defendants and Sentencing with Respect to Convictions of Violating Environmental Statutes

There are three types of defendants that may be charged in a case involving a violation of an environmental statute. The three types of defendants include:

  • corporations
  • corporate officers
  • individuals

Corporations
Corporations are frequent defendants in actions alleging violation of environmental statutes. If, for example, a corporation improperly dumps hazardous materials into navigable waters without a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, the corporation may be charged with a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Corporate Officers
Approximately 80 % of all individuals prosecuted for violations of environmental statutes fall under the corporate officer is category. The responsible corporate officer doctrine states that the corporate officer may be held personally liable for the criminal act of a subordinate employee if he or she had the responsibility and authority either to prevent in the first instance or to promptly to correct the violation complained of, and failed to do so. In order for a prosecutor to be successful in a case naming a corporate officer, the prosecutor must show that the corporate officer had knowledge of the actions committed. It may also be inferred that individuals who hold the requisite responsible positions with the corporation are corporate officers.

Individuals or Government Employees
An individual may also be directly prosecuted for committing a violation of an environmental statute. Government employees have also been charged and convicted of violating environmental statutes.

Sentencing
Depending upon the severity of the environmental violations, the defendant may be fined and/or sentenced to imprisonment. A corporation may be precluded from dealing in a certain type of industry for a period of time. Some defendants are required to remedy the damage caused by their violations.

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