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Criminal Law and Practical Corporate Strategies

Lee D. Foreman, Corporate Environmental Management (1993)

The criminal prosecution of American corporations, their officers and employees, for environmental offenses is being seen with increasing frequency. The purpose of this paper is not to present a detailed legal analysis of the bases for criminal prosecution or a detailed listing of the reported cases of such prosecutions. Rather, this paper is intended to discuss the criminal process from beginning to end, and to highlight some of the practical problems and considerations that may be encountered by an organization or an individual who becomes the subject of a federal criminal environmental investigation.

I. The Initiation of the Criminal Process

Nearly every business involved with manufacturing or the development of mineral resources is subject to inspection and oversight by various regulatory agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency has the most obvious environmental jurisdiction, but other agencies with oversight responsibility may utilize Inspectors General as investigative or “police” personnel charged with compliance/enforcement of various federal laws including those focusing on environmental protection.

Most environmental statutes provide both civil and criminal penalties upon proof of violation. Accordingly, any police agency charged with compliance and enforcement has the jurisdiction to investigate both civil and criminal violations, and