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Legislative Skullduggery: More Laws to Enforce, Fewer Resources to Do It

May 2009

Citation: 39 ELR 10355

Issue: 5

Author: John Spinello

There has, indeed, been a marked evolution in the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes in New Jersey and around the United States since the inception 30 years ago of environmental law as we know it today. Just as criminal schemes that adversely impact public health and natural resources have become more sophisticated, so have the strategies and technologies employed by investigators to track down such criminal activity. Forensic tools have advanced remarkably across disciplines, and the cross-agency sharing of intelligence and analysis has improved in the post9/11 era, facilitated by rapid advances in information technology capabilities ever since former Vice President Al Gore invented the Internet. Prosecutorial tools have also improved as laws have evolved to, among other things, afford more time to charge a defendant, and establish lower mens rea requirements necessary to achieve a conviction.

In general, these are welcome changes. The Environmental Crimes Bureau in the Division of Criminal Justice is the principal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of environmental laws in New Jersey, and enjoys a long-standing reputation for its fairness in charging decisions, independence from political influence, and effectiveness in ensuring justice.

John Spinello is a Partner at K&L Gates LLP in Newark, New Jersey, and formerly served in the New Jersey DEP Office of Compliance and Enforcement, the Office of the Chief Counsel to the Governor of New Jersey, and the U.S. EPA Office of General Counsel.

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