The criminal provisions for the protection of the environment are aimed at the protection of the environment and the landscape (art. 9 of the Constitution), as well as individuals’ health (art. 32 of the Constitution), and tend to improve the quality of public life, the prevention and repression of behaviours that are likely to cause an environmental damage.

The largest part of environmental criminal provisions are placed within the complementary criminal law framework, encompassed in multiple special laws, as well as following the so-called reform on the environmental crimes, which are also included within the Criminal Code.

In addition to traditional criminal law, it is necessary to include the provisions of Law nr. 689/1981, due to the massive resort to administrative fines made by the Italian lawmaker.

The high technicality of the law, the jagged location of the many special disciplines and the many typified cases, make it essential to receive timely specialistic support from a team of environmental lawyers.

Our assistance is targeted at entrepreneurs, companies, private individuals and public administrations in every aspect of environmental criminal law, both as suspects, defendants and as injured parties in the crime.

The cases dictated by the special discipline are extremely varied, including crimes and fines related to:

  • urban planning offences;
  • waste management offences;
  • atmospheric pollution;
  • water protection;
  • dangerous substances and major accident risk;
  • noise pollution;
  • reach: chemicals legislation;
  • remediation of contaminated sites;
  • national, regional and interregional parks;
  • the Basel Convention;
  • cultural heritage and landscape;
  • electromagnetic pollution;
  • quarries, mines and excavation materials;
  • animal welfare and hunting;
  • The register of environmental operators;
  • ATO;
  • food safety;
  • nuclear pollution;
  • biotechnology and nanomaterials;
  • absence and renewal of environmental permits;
  • genetic modifications.

Within the Criminal Code, the Title nr. 6-bis of Book nr. Two, provides for a series of crimes, including environmental pollution under Article. 452-bis, death or injury as a result of the crime of environmental pollution under Article 452-ter, environmental disaster under Article 452-quater, unintentional crimes against the environment under Article 452-quinques.

The Art. 452-sexies punishes the traffic and the abandonment of material with high radioactivity, while the Art. 452-septies, introduced also with the Law 68/2015, provides for obstruction of control offence.

Another important innovation, introduced by Law 68/2015, is the procedure for the discharge of minor offences.

A new part has been added to the Consolidated Bill on the Environment, in which Articles 318-bis et seq. follow the procedure provided for by Legislative Decree no. 758/94, concerning the discharge of offences relating to safety and hygiene at work.

This procedure can be applied to environmental fines that have not caused damage or danger of damage to protected environmental, urban and landscape resources.

It is a more advantageous solution for offenders, as it is cheaper than the oblation, interrupts the criminal proceedings and provides for the cancellation of the fine.

In short, in order to eliminate the charged violation, Law Enforcement agencies carry out their functions (e.g. the Ecological Operating Unit) and command the offender to comply with the prescriptions that have been technically certified by the authority competent in the matter dealt with (think of the Optimal Territorial Area for exceeding the values of acceptability of industrial wastewater conveyed into public sewerage).

The law enforcement officer then fixes a term, usually consisting of 60 days (extendable once, up to a maximum of 6 months), within which the case is to be settled.

If the previously ascertained violation has been completely eliminated, the violator is admitted to the payment of the finantial sanction equal to a quarter of the maximum statutory penalty, and the criminal procedure is automatically cancelled.

Particular importance is also being given to criminal conduct in the area of corporate liability, as provided for by the Legislative Decree nr. 231/2001.

Convictions of legal entities are becoming more and more frequent and, above all, have a high (negative) impact from an economic and operational point of view, which is why it is necessary to comply in advance, among other things, with environmental regulations and to avoid being recipients of financial fines and disqualifications.