LANSING, Mich., Oct. 3, 2018 — The Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn (R–Ida) and Sen. Vincent Gregory (D–Lathrup Village) that would allow a county prosecutor to file charges in a drug-overdose death, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

“Right now, there is a loophole in the law that allows an individual to escape immediate prosecution if they sell drugs in one county and the user dies from an overdose in a different county, and that’s not justice,” Sen. Gregory said. “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.”

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

In 2016, an individual in Monroe County died from a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose. The dealer was charged with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death in the county where the death occurred. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecutor lacked jurisdiction because the drugs were sold in a different county.

Senate Bill 951 (Gregory) and SB 952 (Zorn) would allow felony charges of delivery of controlled substance causing death to be prosecuted in any of the following counties:

  • The county in which the delivery of the controlled substance was made.
  • The county in which the controlled substance was consumed.
  • The county in which the death caused by the delivery of the controlled substance occurred.

“As Michigan and the entire nation continues to battle the growing epidemic of opioid addiction, this commonsense legislation would give prosecutors more tools to punish drug dealers,” Sen. Zorn said. “We have worked with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and with law enforcement officials from across the state to craft this reform and give county prosecutors the ability to seek justice on behalf of their residents.”