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United States v. Price

Citation: 33 ELR 20146
No. No. 02-10196, (9th Cir., 12/26/2002)

The court holds that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar an individual's federal criminal prosecution for violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) asbestos-removal regulations even though he was previously assessed a civil penalty for the same conduct by a county health district. The individual entered a settlement agreement, which included a civil penalty, with the county health district for improperly removing asbestos. Subsequently, the individual was found guilty of violating the CAA for the same asbestos removal project. Under the separate sovereign doctrine, a single act that violates the laws of two separate sovereigns constitutes two separate crimes, and prosecutions by each of these sovereigns does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. The individual incorrectly argued that the federal government's delegation to the state, and thereby the county health department, under the CAA to enforce the CAA standards means that the county was acting under federal authority. Once the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a state's plan to enforce the CAA, EPA delegates the responsibility to implement and enforce the plan's standards to the state. Any actions taken subsequent to this are the actions of the state, not of the federal government. Thus, the county health district was acting under state authority when it pursued civil enforcement against the individual for violating the district's asbestos regulations. Because the county health district and the U.S. government are separate sovereigns, enforcement action taken by the former did not create a double jeopardy bar to criminal prosecution by the latter.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Michael R. Fisher
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Defendant
Daniel J. Albregts
Law Offices of Daniel J. Albregts
601 S. 10th St., Las Vegas NV 89101
(702) 474-4004