On March 30th, 1998 the Brazilian Law on Environmental Crimes came into force, which sets forth the penal and administrative crimes resulting from conduct or activities harmful to the environment. By establishing legal means to assure an ecologically balanced environment, healthy life quality and the integrity of air, water bodies, forests and biodiversity, this law fixes civil, administrative and criminal penalties not only for private individuals, but also for corporations and business. It includes modern methods where jail sentences are replaced by restraining orders that restrict the defendantís possibility of continuing to abuse the environment. The new law corrects glaring ambiguities which previous legislation covered in a scattered and disjointed manner.
Great relevance is also given to the corporationís penal responsabilities. From now they shall be made responsible for environmental infraction, be it commited through the legal, contractual or collegiated representativeís decisions to their own interes or benefit, or who, by any means, could have contributed to practice of crime at the measure and proportion of their own culpability. This follows a trend already existing in the United States of America, Canada, France, New Zealand and other nations. This law punishes, as well, managers, administrators, members of a council and/or technical organism, auditors, executives, corporationís agents or proxies, who knowing about criminous conduct of others, fail to impede their practice when everything possible should be done to avoid it.
It is also provided the compulsory extinction of a corporation which has been formed or utilized aiming at facilitating or enshouding an environmental crime; in this case, its patrimony shall be transfered to the National Penitentiary Fund; the reversibility of punishment based on the environmental claim, putting into evidence the environment against the former punishment of loss of liberty; the conceipt of prevention to environmental crime with the introduction of " crime of dangerous" when understood as conduct or activity threating to the environment.
The international cooperation for the environmentís protection is highlighted in the law, inasmuch as the national sovereignty, the public order and good costumes are maintained unimpaired. Thus, the Brazilian Government shall, whenever request, render the necessary cooperation to other countries, without any onus whatsoever, for the provision of proof, inspection of the objects and places, informartion about individuals and their belongings, temporary presence of arrested individuals whose declarations could be clarifying to the causeís decision, as wrll as other forms of assistance permissible by the legislation in vigor or by means of treaties in which Brazil participates.
Into this new law were included crimes related to urban patrimonium, such as historic buildings and monuments, that is, their graphitics and vandalism.
The Brazilian Ministry for Environment and Brazilian Instutute of the Environment ( IBAMA ) together are promoting a consultation process with different actors of the society to discuss the best regulation forms and their implementation.
Only the administrative infractions must still be elaborated into legal regulations which are to be published by May 15. These regulations will establish the finesí value for each infraction type, ranging from a minimum of R$ 50,00 ( fifty reais) to a maximum of R$50,000,000.00 ( fifty million reais). Before this law came into force, the maximum infraction fine before this law was R$ 5,000.00.
This law for Natureís protection contextualizes the new modalities of environmental crime, as to what concerns the technological advance and the globalization of the world economy and surely is a powerful tool for the environmental institutions, courts and citizenship. It is up to the brazilian citizens to put it to work, to implement it.