Two weeks ago, news broke that Volkswagen has been cheating its emissions tests on 11 million VW and Audi diesel vehicles. Since then, Volkswagen’s CEO has been replaced, its stock prices have plummeted and there are estimates the automaker could see fines reach has high as $18 billion dollars, but will they face criminal charges for its deception? Even though VW has admitted intentionally deceiving consumers and the EPA, a loophole in the Clean Air Act may prevent any criminal charges from being filed.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, the decades-old Clean Air Act only holds refineries and other major polluters criminally liable for emissions that are beyond legal limits. The portion of the Clean Air Act that addresses automakers leaves out the provision that would hold Volkswagen liable for its deception. Two Democrats have called for filing criminal charges anyway, but it may be hard to punish the company’s executives in a U.S. courtroom since most of the misconduct occurred outside of the country.

Related: VW forced to recall nearly 500,000 cars for circumventing smog emission standards

It’s also interesting to note this isn’t the first time the car manufacturer has been caught cheating on emissions tests. Back in 1973, the EPA discovered Volkswagen installed temperature-sensitive devices that turned off emissions controls on approximately 25,000 models. The company was fined $120,000 for that misconduct, which is a mere fraction of the billions of dollars Volkswagen could get fined for its latest scandal. Maybe.

Via: The Wall Street Journal

All images @ Volkswagen