Environmental cases in Massachusetts represent a very unique area of law. They, typically, deal with a combination of the General Laws (statutes), Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMRs), and case law. They also can involve many state agencies including the Environmental Police, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Crimes Strike Force (through the Attorney General’s Office), and other law enforcement agencies.Types of Environmental Cases:
- Violation of the Clean Air Act
- Violation of the Clean Water Act
- Improper Disposal of Hazardous Waste
- Violation of the Hazardous Waste Act
- Improper Removal of Asbestos
- Improper Disposal of Asbestos
- Fisheries violations
- Environmental cases are sometimes also prosecuted using statues that are not specifically aimed at environmental crimes such as fraud, larceny, OSHA violations, and others.
Massachusetts has a complex system of environmental laws. They often involve an interaction between the Massachusetts General Laws and the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. There is, oftentimes, also discretion for the case to be treated criminally or civilly. A criminal prosecution will carry the potential for a jail or prison sentence whereas a civil case can result in very large financial penalties.If I am Under Investigation for Violating Environmental Regulations What is the Process?
An environmental case will often start with an investigation by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Police, or a combination of both. They may interview witnesses, conduct surveillance, and obtain and execute search warrants. Typically, an environmental crime is then going to be presented to a grand jury (by either a District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office). This can entail the grand jury subpoenaing documents and witnesses so that they can be reviewed by the Grand Jury in order for them to issue Superior Court charges (indictments). While you may learn of the investigation as it is ongoing, other times the first you might learn of it is when you receive notice in the mail of an arraignment date or the issuance of a warrant.If I am Charged for Violating Environmental Regulations What is the Court Process?
Once you have been charged with an environmental crime, you will either be summonsed to court or brought before the court for arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be read your charges and bail and other conditions of release will be set by the court. The discovery process will then begin. You are entitled to many pieces of discovery (evidence) in any criminal case and, in environmental cases in particular, there can be large amounts of discovery (such as documents, police reports, witness statements, grand jury minutes, and scientific data), that need to be obtained and analyzed. The case will then proceed to motions, where an attorney should be considering filing motions to suppress evidence, and motions to dismiss some or all of the charges. As in any case, you then have a right to a trial where a judge or jury will determine whether or not you are guilty or not guilty. At any stage of your case, it may be possible to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor or put forward a proposed resolution to a judge.What is the Environmental Crimes Strike Force in Massachusetts?
The Environmental Crimes Strike Force is a specialized unit within the Attorney General’s Office that handles environmental crimes. It is also considered an inter-agency group with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Police, and the Attorney General’s Office Civil Environmental Unit that reviews and makes strategic determinations as to how allegations of environmental violations will be handled.What are the Penalties for Environmental Regulation Violations?
Environmental crimes can carry lengthy state prison sentences and fines of over $100,000.00. Furthermore, oftentimes, someone charged with environmental crimes will be facing multiple charges or indictments. In these cases, sentences can be run “on and after” each other (also called “consecutive sentences”). This Means that environmental cases can sometimes carry potential sentences of decades in state prison and millions of dollars in fines.Why Should I Hire an Environmental Defense Attorney?
Environmental cases are unique in that they can involve a number of state agencies and numerous laws and regulations. Also, they often involve both legal and scientific evidence that needs to be fully analyzed and challenged in order for the best defense to be put forward in your case. Without someone experienced in handling these matters, opportunities may be missed and critical defense work may be overlooked. In terms of your own wellbeing, environmental cases carry lengthy prison sentences and extremely large financial penalties. Also, the ramifications for these types of cases can be devastating to your job or your business. One of our team members was a prosecutor in the Environmental Crimes Strike Force. We have experience in navigating the state agencies, laws, evidence, and defenses in these complex cases. Being charged with an environmental crime can affect every aspect of your life in serious ways. It is important that your rights are protected and that you reach the right outcome in your case with experienced environmental lawyers.
Schedule your free phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney at Eisenstadt, Krippendorf & Galvin, LLP by filling out our confidential contact form or by calling 24/7 to get live help at (617) 523-3500 right now.