North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-284.2: Toxic Substances, Dumping
Under North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-284.2, the crime of dumping toxic substances occurs when a defendant knowingly deposits, discharges, dumps, spills, releases, burns, incinerates and/or disposes of a toxic substance into the environment in contravention of federal or state law.
To prove a charge of crime of dumping toxic substances, the State must be able to establish the following prima facie elements Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:
- That the Defendant deposited, placed, dumped, discharged, spilled, released, burned, incinerated OR disposed of as substance into the atmosphere, in the waters OR on land
- That the substance was a toxic substance and/or radioactive material
- That the deposit, placement, dumping, discharge, spill, release, burning, incineration OR disposal was not conducted pursuant to federal or State law, regulation, or permit AND
- That the defendant acted knowingly
“Toxic Substances” are defined as: (1) heavy metals: mercury, plutonium, selenium, thallium and uranium; (2) halogenated hydrocarbons: polychlorinated biphenyls (e..g, oil used in engines), Kepone (Chlordecone).
“Radioactive materials” are defined as means any solid, liquid, or gas which emits ionizing radiation spontaneously.
The phrase “law, regulation or permit” includes controls over equipment or machinery that emits substances into the atmosphere, in waters, or on land (e.g., federal or state controls over motor vehicle emissions) and controls over sources of substances that are publicly consumed (e.g., drinking water standards, and controls over substances directly released into the atmosphere, in waters, or on land (e.g., pesticide controls and water pollution controls).
“Knowingly” means consciously or with knowledge or complete understanding of the facts or circumstances.
Dumping of Toxic Substances is a specific intent crime. The State bears the burden of proof to show the accused acted in a willful, intentional manner.
Criminal lawyers may refer to that level of intent as one of the necessary, prima facie elements of the offense known as the mens rea.
The intentional “dumping” amounts to the actus rea of the criminal charge.2. Examples
Defendant’s best friend has property with access to a trout stream that feeds into a larger river. This river sustains a nearby population’s water supply. Defendant knows that best friend loves to fish on this stream and he is also aware that this water feeds into a large river downstream. Defendant finds out that best friend took his girlfriend fishing on the stream without his knowledge and that best friend and girlfriend were engaged in a sexual relationship behind his back. Seeking revenge, Defendant dumps a large amount of mercury into the stream killing all the fish and contaminating the drinking water of nearby residents. Defendant can be charged with dumping of toxic substances.
Defendant purchases an abandoned warehouse and plans to renovate it for apartment use. While investigating the warehouse, Defendant locates several old rusty barrels that are full of engine oil. Defendant notices a skull and crossbones with the word “hazardous” written beneath it on the side of the barrels. Defendant reaches out to a local hazardous waste removal service. Defendant is unhappy that the service quoted him $3,000 to remove the materials. Rather than pay, Defendant takes the barrels to a nearby river and rolls them in the water. The old, rusty barrels begin to leak oil into the river causing thousands of nearby residents to get sick from drinking the water. Defendant can be charged with dumping of toxic substances.3. Related Offenses and Legal Topics of Interest
Other similar or related offenses include:
- What should I do after getting arrested?
- What does getting indicted mean?
- What is a Criminal Summons?
- If they didn’t read me my rights can the charges be thrown out?
- NC Criminal Laws: “Offenses against the public”
- Search of Premises: When is a warrant required?
The Defendant has a viable defense under North Carolina law if they can show they did not “knowingly” dump toxic substances. Defendant can also show that the substances they were dumping were not toxic substances or radioactive materials.5. Penalties
The punishment for the crime of dumping of toxic substances is a Class F felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 62 months in a state correctional facility.6. Criminal Defense for Dumping of Toxic Substances
If you have been charged with dumping of toxic substances, it important to understand that this is a very serious felony offense.
“Dumping” cases also subject the accused to civil liability. Certain allegations can in fact also be prosecuted in Federal Court for violations of the United States Code (U.S.C.) as annotated.
They can attract the attention of the media, especially in instances that result in the release of toxic, carcinogenic (cancer causing) and possibly deadly substances.
If you have been accused of dumping toxic substances, we recommend you consult with a criminal attorney without delay.
Prior to cooperating with any environmental, civil, or criminal investigation, we recommend you retain legal representation.
Exercise your right to remain silent.
Charlotte criminal defense attorney Bill Powers is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law as designated by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification / National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Call Bill Powers now at: 704-342-4357