UNITED STATES V. WARD, 448 U. S. 242 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Ward, 448 U.S. 242 (1980)

United States v. Ward

No. 79-394

Argued February 26, 1980

Decided June 27, 1980

448 U.S. 242


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.


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. 448 U. S. 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 imposition

Page 448 U. S. 243

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. 448 U. S. 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, as indicating that a penalty is criminal in nature. Neither that factor nor any of the other factors set forth in Mendoza-Martinez is sufficient to render unconstitutional the congressional classification of the penalty established in § 311(b)(6). Pp. 448 U. S. 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, 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. 448 U. S. 251-254.

598 F.2d 1187, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 448 U. S. 255. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 448 U. S. 257.

Page 448 U. S. 244

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