United States v. Ward

Decision Date27 June 1980
Docket NumberNo. 79-394,79-394
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. L. O. WARD dba L. O. Ward Oil and Gas Operations
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Section 311(b)(3) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil into navigable waters. Section 311(b)(5) requires any person in charge of an onshore facility to report any such discharge to the appropriate Government agency, and a failure to report subjects the person to a fine or imprisonment. Section 311(b)(5) also provides for a form of "use immunity," by specifying that notification of the discharge or information obtained by the exploitation of such notification is not to be used against the reporting person in any criminal case, except for prosecution for perjury or for giving a false statement. Section 311(b)(6) provides for the imposition of a "civil penalty" against any owner or operator of an onshore facility from which oil was discharged in violation of the Act. When oil escaped from a drilling facility leased by respondent and spilled into a tributary of the Arkansas River system, respondent notified the Environmental Protection Agency of the discharge, and this was reported to the Coast Guard who assessed a $500 penalty against respondent under § 311(b)(6). After his administrative appeal was denied, respondent filed suit in Federal District Court, seeking injunctive relief against enforcement of §§ 311(b)(5) and (6) and collection of the penalty. The Government filed a separate suit to collect the penalty, and the suits were consolidated for trial. Prior to trial, the District Court rejected respondent's contention that the reporting requirements of § 311(b)(5), as used to support a civil penalty under § 311(b)(6), violated his right against compulsory self-incrimination, and ultimately the jury found that respondent's facility did, in fact, spill oil into the creek in question. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 311(b)(6) was sufficiently punitive to intrude upon the Fifth Amendment's protections against compulsory self-incrimination.

Held :

1. The penalty imposed by § 311(b)(6) is civil and hence does not trigger the protections afforded by the Constitution to a criminal defendant. Pp. 248-251.

(a) It is clear that Congress intended in § 311(b)(6) to impose a civil penalty upon persons in respondent's position, and to allow imposi- tion of the penalty without regard to the procedural protections and restrictions available in criminal prosecutions. This intent is indicated by the fact that the authorized sanction is labeled a "civil penalty," and by the juxtaposition of such label with the criminal penalties set forth in § 311(b)(5). P. 249.

(b) The fact that § 13 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 makes criminal the conduct penalized in this case does not render the penalty under § 311(b)(6) criminal in nature. The placement of criminal penalties in one statute and of civil penalties in another statute enacted 70 years later tends to dilute the force of the factor—the behavior to which the penalty applies is already a crime—considered, inter alia in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 83 S.Ct. 554, 9 L.Ed.2d 644, as indicating that a penalty is criminal in nature. Neither that factor nor any of the other factors set forth in Mendoza-Martinez are sufficient to render unconstitutional the congressional classification of the penalty established in § 311(b)(6). Pp. 249-251.

2. The proceeding in which the penalty was imposed was not "quasi-criminal" so as to implicate the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746, distinguished. In light of overwhelming evidence that Congress intended to create a penalty civil in all respects and weak evidence of any countervailing punitive purpose or effect, it would be anomalous to hold that § 311(b)(6) created a criminal penalty for the purposes of the Self-Incrimination Clause but a civil penalty for all other purposes. Pp. 251-254.

10 Cir., 598 F.2d 1187, reversed.

Edwin S. Kneedler for petitioner.

Stephen Jones, Enid, Okl., for respondent.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The United States seeks review of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that a proceeding for the assessment of a "civil penalty" under § 311(b)(6) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) is a "criminal case" within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against compulsory self-incrimination. We granted certiorari, 444 U.S. 939, 100 S.Ct. 291, 62 L.Ed.2d 305, and now reverse.

I

At the time this case arose,1 § 311(b)(3) of the FWPCA prohibited the discharge into navigable waters or onto adjoining shorelines of oil or hazardous substances in quantities determined by the President to be "harmful." 2 Section 311(b)(5) of the Act imposed a duty upon "any person in charge of a vessel or of an onshore facility or an offshore facility" to report any discharge of oil or a hazardous substance into navigable waters to the "appropriate agency" of the United States Government. Should that person fail to supply such notification, he or she was liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year. Section 311(b)(5) also provided for a form of "use immunity," specifying that "[n]otification received pursuant to this paragraph or information obtained by the exploitation of such notification shall not be used against any such person in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury or for giving a false statement." 33 U.S.C. § 1321(b)(5).3 Section 311(b)(6) provided for the imposition of a "civil penalty" against "[a]ny owner or operator of any vessel, onshore facility, or offshore facility from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged in violation" of the Act. In 1975, that subsection called for a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation of the Act.4 In assessing penalties, the Secretary of the appropriate agency was to take into account "the appropriateness of such penalty to the size of the business or of the owner or operator charged, the effect on the owner or operator's ability to continue in business, and the gravity of the violation . . . ." 33 U.S.C. § 1321(b)(6).5

According to § 311(k) of the Act, funds collected from the assessment of penalties under § 311(b)(6) were to be paid into a "revolving fund" together with "other funds received . . . under this section" and any money appropriated to the revolving fund by Congress. See 33 U.S.C. § 1321(k). Money contained in this fund was to be used to finance the removal, containment, or dispersal of oil and hazardous substances discharged into navigable waters and to defray the costs of administering the Act. 33 U.S.C. § 1321(l ). another section of the Act allowed the United States Government to collect the costs of removal, containment, or dispersal of a discharge from the person or corporation responsible for that discharge in cases where that person or corporation had been identified. 33 U.S.C. § 1321(f).

On or about March 23, 1975, oil escaped from an oil retention pit at a drilling facility located near Enid, Okla., and eventually found its way into Boggie Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River system.6 At the time of the discharge, the premises were being leased by respondent L. O. Ward, who was doing business as L. O. Ward Oil & Gas Operations. On April 2, 1975, respondent Ward notified the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that a discharge of oil had taken place. Ward later submitted a more complete written report of the discharge, which was in turn forwarded to the Coast Guard, the agency responsible for assessing civil penalties under § 311(b)(6).

After notice and opportunity for hearing, the Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty against respondent in the amount of $500. Respondent filed an administrative appeal from this ruling, contending, inter alia, that the reporting requirements of § 311(b)(5) of the Act violated his privilege against compulsory self-incrimination. The administrative appeal was denied.

On April 13, 1976, Ward filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, seeking to enjoin the Secretary of Transportation, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Administrator of EPA from enforcing §§ 311(b)(5) and (6) and from collecting the penalty of $500. On June 4, 1976, the United States filed a separate suit in the same court to collect the unpaid penalty. The District Court eventually ordered the two suits consolidated for trial.

Prior to trial, the District Court rejected Ward's contention that the reporting requirements of § 311(b)(5), as used to support a civil penalty under § 311(b)(6), violated his right against compulsory self-incrimination. The case was tried to a jury, which found that Ward's facility did, in fact, spill oil into Boggie Creek. The District Court, however, reduced Ward's penalty to $250 because of the amount of oil that had spilled and because of its belief that Ward had been diligent in his attempts to clean up the discharge after it had been discovered.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed. Ward v. Coleman, 598 F.2d 1187 (1979). Although admitting that Congress had labeled the penalty provided for in § 311(b)(6) as civil and that the use of funds collected under that section to finance the administration of the Act indicated a "remedial" purpose for the provision, the Court of Appeals tested the statutory scheme against the standards set forth in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-169, 83 S.Ct. 554, 567-568, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (1963),7 and held that § 311(b)(6) was sufficiently punitive to intrude upon the Fifth Amendment's protections against compulsory...

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