Senate approves Zorn’s drug-death jurisdiction bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of a resident in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

“During the global pandemic, the opioid abuse epidemic has continued to affect people in our communities — and in many places the situation has gotten even worse,” said Zorn. R-Ida. “We should ensure our local prosecutors have all the necessary tools to protect our people and provide closure for families who lose a loved one to a drug overdose.

“I am proud to continue to be working with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement leaders on this reform to help combat our deadly opioid crisis and crack down on drug dealers.”

Senate Bills 14 and 15 would broaden the potential for prosecution of delivery of a controlled substance causing death to three possible venues: the county where the drugs were delivered, the county where the drugs were consumed, and the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

According to the governor’s office, opioid overdoses have killed 8,000 Michigan residents over the last five years, and the crisis has become even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, with calls to emergency medical services for opioid overdoses 22% higher from April to July 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

Zorn’s bills are the result of a 2016 case involving the heroin-overdose death of a man in Monroe County. The cause of death was toxicity from fentanyl, which is sometimes used by dealers as a cutting agent to make heroin more potent. The dealer was charged in Monroe County with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death. However, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the Monroe Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the drugs were obtained in Wayne County.

SBs 14 and 15 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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