We do a lot of federal criminal appeals, so I was very interested to read about yesterday’s reversal of an Alabama federal conviction for environmental crimes. This case is one more example about how important it is to get a federal criminal defense attorney who not only knows the law, but keeps up with the changes.
The case comes out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which handles federal appeals from Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The Court of Appeals ruled that the convictions for conspiracy and violations of the Clean Water Act had to be reversed because of incorrect instructions to the jury about the meaning of the term “navigable waters.”
This case is quite complicated, involving a criminal prosecution against both a company and several of its executives. However, the defense attorneys did a good job of arguing that the jury was not given correct definitions about what is “navigable water” tht can be regulated under federal laws. The defendants attorneys correctly pointed out that the United States Supreme Court had recently issued an opinion that gives a more restrictive meaning to this term.
Perhaps the most important lesson from this case is that it demonstrates the importance of having a criminal defense attorney who keeps current on the law. The defense attorneys were able to win the appeal because they were aware of this recent Supreme Court case, and they used this relatively recent decision to show that their clients did not get a fair trial the first time around.