Environmental crimes are, in essence, crimes that affect entire communities – even the world. By their very nature, they damage ecosystems, endanger the public’s health and hurt the environment as a whole.
In a world that’s becoming increasingly conscious of the effects of environmental damage on both micro and macro scales, environmental crimes have taken on new levels of importance. When someone is caught violating something like the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances and Control Act or another federal statute, the penalties can be quite severe.
What are the most common environmental crimes?
Probably the first thing that people think about when they hear the phrase “environmental crime” is some kind of illegal dumping. That often involves factories dropping waste products and toxic chemicals into rivers or lakes to solve some kind of disposal problem they’re having.
However, you can also be guilty of dumping if you operate a “hauling trash for cash” kind of business and then surreptitiously dispose of everything from leaky batteries and old paint cans to computers and couches in unauthorized locations (like over a hill in a rural area). Toxic substances can end up contaminating the water table, damaging both flora and fauna.
Some of the other top environmental crimes that have become increasingly common include:
- Illegally harvesting protected animals: Finning, which involves cutting the fins off of live sharks to supply illegal food markets, might be something you’d never do – but you could end up in serious legal trouble for harvesting other marine life while on vacation. One visitor to the Florida keys took queen conch shells from the ocean as souvenirs and ended up in serious legal trouble.
- Animal trafficking: Guns and drugs are the only things trafficked more than wild animals because someone is always willing to pay a high price for certain kinds of tropical birds, primates like capuchins and lemurs, exotic reptiles, spiders and more. Other people sometimes take the risk of trying to traffic ivory from elephants and horns from rhinoceroses for the price they bring on the black market.
Naturally, these are just a few examples of the way you can run afoul of environmental regulations, consciously or not. Sometimes people end up in trouble simply because they didn’t understand vague, confusing regulations. Whatever the situation, make sure that you have serious legal guidance to help protect your future.