Sample Essay on Environmental Laws and Crimes

Environmental Laws and Crimes


Criminal intent is the willingness of an individual to do something forbidden or wrong as per the existing laws. The existing environmental laws are ambiguous as far the definition and standard to which criminal intent is achieved (Woolley, 2000). These laws lack a standard or level of intent that deserves willful violation of the set regulations. Therefore, due to the lack of clarity in environmental laws, the decision involving which case to be pursued criminally is left upon the prosecutor. The prosecutors in most cases have the tendency of forcing many cases into the legal criminal process. These efforts sometimes may result in unintended consequences that may make the process insignificant to the society.

The environmental acts require a proof that the accused “knowingly” acted against a given law. In other words, he/she knew that his/her actions violated a given set of legal requirements. This showing of intent, for years, was required for the proof of felony crimes. In reaction to this technicality, the federal courts concluded that in regard to environmental laws, the prosecutor through showing that the accused knew that she/he was doing, what she/he was accused of can be able to prove a certain felony  (“More Criminal Environmental Prosecution?,” n.d.). Therefore, the prosecutor has discretion to seek crime sanctions, which are based on deeds that are committed without criminal intent. This should be done under the control of the department of justice standards.


Under the current environmental laws, there is no clear theoretical difference between criminal and civil violations involving environmental regulations. This subjects the prosecutors into difficult situations in making important decisions regarding the criminal offenses. They end-up making incorrect decisions through prosecutions, which are unnecessary, counterproductive, and unfair. For example, considering the definitional complications of RCRA, which is a policy meant to bring more trials criminally, it can lead to new hazardous waste re-use operations (“More Criminal Environmental Prosecution?” n.d.). Therefore, the prosecutors should apply their high integrity and knowledge in order to group a case into civil or criminal before pursuing it.


In order to make the decisions on whether to proceed on certain environmental cases criminally, the prosecutor should consider the significance of the evidences involving the guilty intent or knowledge as emphasized by the internal policy of the Justice department. The prosecutor in charge of criminal enforcement agenda describes this policy as designed to target individuals or organizations operating externally in regard to the program with no compliance or the companies that are within the system but are violating the regulatory policy.

To promote fairness in criminal investigations, whereby there may be indictments with less evidence of willfulness or intent, a justice policy by name “Principles of Federation Prosecution” was developed. This principle advocates that prosecutors should make decisions under the consideration of the decision’s implications, effectiveness, justice, and its consequences on the individual citizens (“More Criminal Environmental Prosecution?” n.d.). Therefore, the prosecutors should first consider the evidence level of a case before proceeding to its indictment.

The Agencies responsible for the formulations and enactment of environmental laws and regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency should be able to come out clear and define the coverage of various terms. The standard of criminal intent should be clearly outlined in the laws to give the prosecutors’ easy time in pursuing cases. Terms like hazardous in regard to conservation should be specifically defined under the legislations to avoid confusions in interpretation of the law (Woolley, 2000)



More Criminal Environmental Prosecution? (n.d.). Retrieved from

Woolley, D. (2000). Environmental law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.