If the radical interpretation succeeds, people could go to jail for accidentally striking an unknown, endangered insect while driving down the highway.
WildEarth Guardians v. Department of Justice
Unintentional, accidental “take” of species should not be a crime
A radical environmental group challenged the government’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. Because the ESA’s criminal penalties apply only you “knowingly” take a protected species, the government reasonably interprets this to mean that you must know that your actions will cause take and the identity of the species affected. PLF intervened on behalf of several southwestern agricultural organizations that fear imprisonment for innocent mistakes that inadvertently “take” anyone of the thousands of federally-protected species. If the radical interpretation succeeds, people could go to jail for accidentally striking an unknown, endangered insect while driving down the highway.
What’s at stake?
•American criminal law generally does not allow the government to prosecute people for crimes unless they commit an illegal act with a blameworthy state of mind. This should apply to the ESA, and people should not go to jail if they did not know their actions would harm a protected species.
•If the accidental take of a protected species is criminalized, the ability to recognize every single one of the thousands of listed species could be the difference between liberty and incarceration.
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