As the produce industry follows the fate of Eric and Ryan Jensen many articles and commentary have surfaced in support of the brothers Jensen. However, these articles and commentary all focus around a significant misconception about the government’s burden of proof. Specifically, the general misconception is that the U.S. Attorney’s Office must prove or otherwise show intent on the part of the Jensen brothers to obtain a criminal conviction. This is wrong!
The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FD&C Act”) protects the consuming public by allowing the government to regulate the conditions under which food and drugs are manufactured and distributed and it requires those responsible to comply with its provisions. Under the FD&C Act, misdemeanor criminal responsibility does not require intent or consciousness of wrongdoing. On the other hand, felony criminal responsibility requires a knowing violation with the specific intent to defraud or mislead. The FD&C Act also states that a corporation may commit an offense and all persons who aid and abet its commission are equally guilty.
The Jensen brothers are facing misdemeanor criminal charges, which still carry the threat of imprisonment and significant financial penalties. Given the misdemeanor nature of the charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not need to allege or prove any type of intent on the part of the Jensen brothers to obtain a criminal conviction.
The foregoing is but one example of why the Jensen brothers’ criminal case is alarming to the produce industry. With that said, are there any real and meaningful defenses available to the Jensen brothers? The answer is yes!