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Prosecuting Corporations or LLCs

During a recent presentation in Missouri, one of participants raised an issue that has caused problems in enforcement.  He said that many judges and prosecutors insist that an individual be named as a defendant even when it was clear that an owner of the property was a corporation or LLC.  Prosecutors prefer having an individual to prosecute so a warrant can be issued if the individual fails to appear for court.  However, if an individual is named and is not the responsible party, a defense attorney can file a motion to dismiss the charges against him because the proper party is a corporation or LLC.  I think that the reasons judges and prosecutors make this mistake is because they just aren’t familiar with prosecuting corporate entities.  Even corporations can be charged with criminal offenses.  Therefore, prosecutors need to refer to the criminal code to see what procedure exists in those types of cases.  In my jurisdiction, we serve the registered agent and if no one appears for the corporation, we obtain a default judgment and eventually issue some type of process against an officer of the corporation to obtain compliance.  It’s hard to change procedure when “that’s always the way it’s been done” but ultimately, to get results, you have to target the responsible party whether it’s a corporation or not.  In fact, when you’re dealing with commercial or multi-family housing, it’s rare to have an individual as an owner because of the liability issues associated with such ownership.

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  1. ADAguy
    July 23rd, 2009 at 16:27 | #1

    Who is liable when a corp (texas based with a CA LLC), using a contractor as an RME (contractors license expired after permit issued), obtained a permit for a large apartment complex and failed to comply with minimum ADA requirements (city looked the otherway and issued C of O).

    • Linda Pieczynski
      July 25th, 2009 at 10:51 | #2

      I’m afraid I’m not very clear on your fact pattern. The IBC says that any “person” is liable for an unlawful act under the building code. The word “person” includes firms, partnerships and corporations as well as individuals. So LLCs and corporations may be liable for a violation just as “persons” are.

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