A federal court in the District of Columbia has refused to dismiss criminal ocean-dumping charges against a commercial fishing company and two men serving as chief engineer, thereby rejecting defendants’ argument that the criminal indictment failed to state a clear offense under the law because the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and regulations did not clearly enough define certain terms. United States v. Sanford, Ltd., No. 11-352 (D.D.C. 5/14/12).
The alleged violations involved discharging oil-contaminated sludge into the ocean without using mandatory pollution-prevention equipment and included conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. Defendants argued, in support of a motion to dismiss, that the regulations that they allegedly violated, including one mandating that ships account for oil waste accumulated in “machinery spaces,” were not clearly enough defined. Rejecting defendants’ argument, the court ruled, “[g]iven that a person of ‘ordinary intelligence’ would have fair notice of the conduct proscribed and required under the regulation through a straightforward reading of the regulation, the defendants’ argument . . . is unavailing.”