I'm a programmer trying to understand the minutia of the case more, but I'm having a hard time finding information that isn't simplified for sound bite eating public or thick legalesse.

What laws or regulations were broken by VW with their 'defect device' firmware? Were any of these broken by the deception rather then simple not making the emission grades?

  • I haven't read anything about this for a few weeks, but IIRC the violations were of regulations. You might need to look at the Code of Federal Regulations to get to the bottom of your question.
    – phoog
    Mar 3, 2016 at 21:12
  • I've tried... but the ability to understand forking semi-recursive randomized distributive algorithms doesn't come with the ability to understand legal mumbo-gumbo. Mar 4, 2016 at 0:54
  • Let me ask a additional question: Can anyone be arrested for this? Is there any prescribed punishment for breaking those laws or is this set by the court? Mar 8, 2016 at 20:02
  • 1
    This is not a crime, so no arrest (crimes are enumerated in Title 18).. The punishment was set by Congress in the relevant law. The complaint lists the monetary penalties starting p. 27, which appear to add up about 8 zillion dollars.
    – user6726
    Mar 9, 2016 at 0:51
  • @user6726 Incorrect. 42 USC §7413(c) creates criminal penalties. Several defendants went to jail as a result.
    – user71659
    Nov 3 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


The short answer is 42 USC 7523, 7524. This is the complaint filed by DOJ.

From the complaint: "Light-duty vehicles must satisfy emission standards for certain air pollutants. 40 C.F.R. §§ 86.1811-04, 86.1811-09, 86.1811-10". EPA issues certificates of conformity w.r.t. those standards. "manufacturer must submit an application to EPA for each model year and for each test group of vehicles that it intends to enter into United States commerce. 40 C.F.R. § 86.1843-01", and are covered "only if the vehicles are as described in the manufacturer’s application for the COC 'in all material respects.' 40 C.F.R. § 86.1848-10(c)(6)". It is further prohibited to introduce into commerce "any new motor vehicle not covered by a COC issued by EPA under regulations prescribed by the Act governing vehicle emission standards" (which basically says, not only must you do it, you are forbidden to not do it).

All all "auxiliary emission control devices must be listed (40 C.F.R. § 86.1844-01(d)(11)), and it is claimed that the vehicles with "defeat devices" which are a subcase of auxiliary emission control devices cannot be certified. Section 203(a)(3)(B) of 42 U.S.C. § 7522(a)(3)(B) "makes it a violation 'for any person to manufacture ...any part... where a principal effect of the part ... is to bypass...any ...element of design installed ... in compliance with regulations”". There are also reporting requirements which it is alleged were not followed.

  • 1
    You may want to expand this answer for those that don't want to read through 31 pages of legalese and/or don't know the code you are referencing. Mar 7, 2016 at 10:47

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