There is a wide range of federal environmental laws that are designed largely to protect the natural resources that are valuable to humans. This may include water as well as minerals. Some federal environmental laws protect endangered species and span to other areas. The majority of the environmental laws in place today are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, and they affect businesses. However, there are some regulations that impact private citizens as well. Because there are also state and local environmental laws, some crimes are investigated by law enforcement agencies at these levels. If you or your business are the subject of an environmental crime investigation, it is important to secure the services of a criminal defense attorney who specializes in this niche area of the law.
The Important Work of a Federal Environmental Lawyer
An environmental lawyer specializes in the wide range of federal environmental laws that exist today, and his or her work extends to matters related to zoning and other regulations. Often, the lawyer represents businesses’ interests, but he or she may represent endangered species and entities that work to protect the environment.
There are many major federal laws that an environmental lawyer works with. These begin with the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. They continue with the Endangered Species Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Pollution Prevention Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Additional major environmental laws are the Occupational Safety & Health Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act.
Legal Defense for Federal Environmental Crimes
Environmental crimes can span from the local level to the federal level. If you are being investigated by the EPA for a federal environmental crime, it is important to seek representation as soon as possible. This is because many of these cases are lengthy, and there are substantial penalties for those accused of these crimes. Penalties include both imprisonment and large fines. When an environmental criminal defense attorney is involved early on, the attorney can protect the client’s interests through searches and seizures, questioning and grand jury activities. The attorney may negotiate the terms of a plea bargain, or the case will be tried in court.
Because the EPA has an exceptional track record of gathering physical evidence before charges are filed, many defendants choose to settle through a plea bargain if they have the option. For cases that progress to trial, the criminal defense lawyer is tasked with the burden of finding holes in the prosecutor’s case. In some cases, this may be that the evidence was collected illegally and that the defendant’s rights were violated in some way. Other defense strategies include refuting the credibility of the evidence or the meaning of the evidence. Expert witnesses may be called to the stand during the trial to support the defense attorney’s claims.
The Potential Outcomes of a Federal Environmental Violations Case
If the defendant is found guilty of violating federal environmental laws, he or she will face a range of serious punishments. In addition to the potential for enormous fines and imprisonment, other damaging outcomes can occur. For example, if a business has been dumping toxic waste in a public waterway, the business must now find a better solution for dealing with that waste. Often, that solution may be more burdensome on the business’s operations. In addition, there may be significant fallout from a public relations perspective. Major cases may be highly publicized, and negative press can result in lost contracts, reduced revenue and more. In some cases, these damaging effects could be too difficult for a business to overcome.
Request a Consultation with an Environmental Defense Lawyer
Your need for legal representation begins as soon as the investigation of environmental crimes begins. With proper representation, you can most effectively defend yourself against the pending or filed charges that you face. With this in mind, now is the right time to research environmental crimes defense lawyers in your area and to request a consultation as a first step in the process.
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