Monday, May 20, 2019

No Territorial Criminal Jurisdiction In New Jersey For Drug-Induced New York Death

The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that defendants cannot be convicted for a death in New York

In a criminal prosecution, the State must have territorial jurisdiction to enforce its laws against a defendant. Defendant Shameik Byrd sold heroin to defendants Noel Ferguson and Anthony Potts in Paterson, New Jersey. Afterwards, Ferguson and Potts returned to their home state of New York where they sold the heroin they purchased to Kean Cabral. Cabral died of an overdose after taking the heroin originally sold by Byrd. New Jersey criminalizes as a strict-liability offense illicitly distributing drugs that cause death to the user. New York does not. The issue is whether New Jersey has territorial jurisdiction to prosecute the three defendants under its strict-liability statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, for Cabral’s drug-induced death in New York...

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b), courts cannot impute or infer a legislative purpose. A legislative purpose to extend the statute beyond New Jersey’s borders must “plainly” appear. Upon review of the legislative declarations codified as part of the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987, see N.J.S.A. 2C:35-1.1, the Court cannot discern a plain legislative purpose calling for Byrd’s prosecution for the strict-liability drug-induced death of Cabral, when New York, where the death occurred, would not prosecute such an offense.

(Mike Frisch)

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