Tuesday, December 2, 2014

US v. Weitzenhoff case brief summary

US v. Weitzenhoff case brief summary

FACTS
  • The Clean Water Acts makes it a federal felony to “knowingly” violate the CWA. 
  • The plant managers were convicted when their sewage plan violated the CWA and the court found concealment. 
  • The officials arranged for the discharge to be done in a way that avoided detection by state and federal authorities.
HOLDING
The government did not need to prove that defendants knew that their acts violated either the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit or the CWA. Criminal sanctions were appropriate if defendants knowingly engaged in conduct that resulted in permit violations.

DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS
1. The court found that the term knowingly encompasses knowledge of the unlawful act, not knowledge of the law. The court stated that criminal sanctions are to be imposed on an individual who knowingly engages in conduct that results in a permit violation, regardless of whether the polluter is cognizant of the requirements or even the existence of the permit.

2. The court stated “because they speak in terms of causing a violation, the congressional explanations…strongly suggest that criminal sanctions are to be imposed on an individual who knowingly engages in conduct that results in a permit violation, regardless of whether the polluter is cognizant of the requirements or even the existence of the permit”

RULES
The government need not show that the defendant knew he was violating the law but that he was engaging in dangerous conduct that could. Govt. must show ∆ knew he was dumping toxins in the ocean. Folks who think they’re dumping something else but in fact are dumping toxins would not be covered.

CONCLUSION
Held: “knowingly” in the statute means knowing of conduct that violates the law. Unlike guns, which one could own without automatically being on notice that it is capable of functioning as a machine gun, dumping toxins into the ocean automatically puts the reasonable person discharger on notice that his acts may pose a public danger.

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