Zorn, Gregory sponsor bills to expand jurisdiction for drug cases causing death

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn and Sen. Vincent Gregory have introduced bipartisan legislation to allow a county 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.

“This legislation is the result of a case involving the death of a Monroe County resident and would give prosecutors more tools to punish drug dealers,” said Zorn, R-Ida.

“As we continue to combat the opioid epidemic facing our state and local communities, we must crack down on the access to highly addictive illegal drugs,” said Gregory, D-Lathrup Village. “Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and will continue to be until we adopt aggressive and comprehensive policies.”

In a recent case titled, People v. McBurrows, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that charges of delivery of a controlled substance causing death can only be prosecuted in the county where the drugs were delivered.

The case arose from a heroin-overdose death of a man in Monroe County in 2016. An autopsy determined the cause of death was fentanyl toxicity. Fentanyl is sometimes used by heroin dealers as a cutting agent to make the heroin more potent.

The dealer was charged in Monroe County with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the Monroe Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the delivery of the drug occurred in Wayne County.

Senate Bills 951 and 952 would expand the law to broaden the potential for prosecution of delivery of a controlled substance causing death to three possible venues: The county where the drugs are delivered, the county where the drugs are consumed by the victim, or the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

“I have worked with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office on this commonsense legislation,” Zorn said. “If someone in Monroe County is killed by drugs bought someplace else, the county prosecutor should be able to seek justice in Monroe County.”