Polluters in Viral Boating Video Charged with Felony

Posted on 5/7/2024 by Lion Technology Inc.

The Clean Water Act can be difficult to interpret and even harder to apply in real-world situations. 

Noncompliance with Federal water laws can easily occur because your facility overlooked a deeply buried requirement or misinterpreted a complicated rule. Violations that result from an overt, intentional criminal act are relatively rare. 

That said—when a person does intentionally or “knowingly” violate the law, EPA and the Department of Justice can (and do) assess stiff criminal penalties. 

This week, two teenagers in the southeast US are learning the hard way about the consequences of environmental violations. The two were filmed dumping trash from a boat deck into the ocean. 

Polluters in Viral Boating Video Charged with Felony

The video spread widely on social media and appeared on several news broadcasts. The video is not included here because the people in it are juveniles. Two people took responsibility for the act and turned themselves in to authorities. 

The Miami Herald reported: 

Both teens were arrested on a third degree felony charge for causing pollution “so as to harm or injure human health or welfare, animal, plant or aquatic life or property,” according to their arrest reports, which the Herald obtained through a public record request. This charge comes with a fine of up to $50,000 or up to 5 years in jail, or both.

The kids will face long odds if the case goes to trial. EPA’s criminal enforcement program achieved a 100% conviction rate of defendants in FY 2023, according to the agency's annual summary of enforcement results. In the two previous years, the conviction rate was 96% (2021) and 94% (2022). 

Sentences for those convicted in FY 2023 add up to 106 years behind bars and more than $1 billion in penalties, restitution, and forfeited proceeds.

Because they are teenagers, the boaters charged in the viral video incident may avoid the maximum penalty from their ill-conceived actions. The experience will hopefully give the young people a greater respect for the environment, or at least for the laws that protect it.  

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