Houston Environmental Crime Defense Attorneys

Environmental law is a complex web of federal and state laws that impose criminal penalties predicated on human impact to the environment. Hilder & Associates, P.C., has experience in navigating clients through the layers of exposure to criminal liability that stem from an investigation, with the ultimate goal always being to avoid indictment and prosecution.

Federal environmental law is particularly unsettling to those facing investigation because of the vast number of criminal statutes enforcing the law and the prospect of liability even when there has been no negligence or misconduct.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918 created with purpose of protecting certain birds from over hunting during a time when commercial trade in birds was recognized as threat to their long term survival. The MBTA prohibits the taking, killing, or unlawful possession of migratory birds without a permit. Violations are misdemeanors, punishable by $15,000 fine and six months imprisonment. Misdemeanor violations of the MBTA are strict liability crimes.

Refuse Act

The Refuse Act creates a prohibition against the discharge of refuse in the navigable waters of the United States. The purpose of the act is to maintain unobstructed waterways for the transportation of marine commerce and the protection of the waterways from pollution. The Refuse Act states, "It shall not be lawful to throw, or discharge, or deposit...any refuse matter...into any navigable water of the United States." Refuse matter may be anything from trash to oil that could obstruct or pollute a waterway. Violations are misdemeanors, punishable by imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000 per day. Misdemeanor violations of the Refuse Act are strict liability crimes.

Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act criminalizes the act of knowingly discharging pollutants from a point source into the navigable waters of the United States. The Act authorizes a separate criminal penalty for each day that a violation continues. Without a permit to do so, the discharge of any pollutant by any person is unlawful. With a permit, a discharge in violation of that permit is unlawful. A person may be liable under the misdemeanor criminal provisions of the CWA, which with multiple counts may allow for years of prison time, if that person 'negligently' discharged a pollutant from a point source into navigable waters

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act prohibits knowingly discharging pollutants into the air in violation of or without a permit to do so. In addition to felony violations for discharge the act creates liability for those who make false statements in record keeping relating to requirements of the CAA.

There exists a myriad of state and federal laws, layered and over-lapping, which seek to enforce environmental law and regulations and deter violations. Understanding those laws and having the experience to navigate them is key to managing an investigation with the goal of avoiding indictment and prosecution.

Published Articles Relating to Environmental Law

Strict Liability Crimes for the Pollution of American Waters

By: Philip H. Hilder and Paul L. Creech

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Criminal Liability of Polluters

By: Philip H. Hilder and Paul L. Creech

The Clean Water Act: Criminal Exposure In Deepwater

By: Philip H. Hilder and Paul L. Creech

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