February 26, 2019
appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose
opinion is reported at 455 N.J.Super. 56 (App. Div. 2018).
C. Hunt, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for the
State of New Jersey (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General,
attorney; Sarah C. Hunt, of counsel and on the briefs).
Margaret McLane, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the
cause for Shameik Byrd (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender,
attorney; Margaret McLane and Kathryn A. Panaccione,
Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the
Michael J. Montanari argued the cause for Anthony M. Potts
(Del Sardo & Montanari, attorneys; Michael J. Montanari,
of counsel and on the briefs, and Jayna B. Patel, on the
J. Neary argued the cause for Noel E. Ferguson (Law Offices
of Brian J. Neary, attorneys; Brian J. Neary, of counsel, and
Jane M. Personette, on the briefs).
Alexander Shalom argued the cause for amicus curiae American
Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (American Civil Liberties
Union of New Jersey Foundation and Rutgers Constitutional
Rights Clinic Center for Law and Justice, attorneys;
Alexander Shalom, Jeanne LoCicero, and Tess Borden, of
counsel and on the brief, and Ronald K. Chen, on the brief).
J., writing for the Court.
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
three defendants were charged with multiple violations of New
Jersey's drug laws and with the first-degree crime of
distributing heroin that caused the death of Cabral in
violation of the strict-liability drug-induced death statute,
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9. Each defendant moved separately to dismiss
the strict-liability drug-induced death charge on the ground
that the State lacked territorial jurisdiction to prosecute
trial court dismissed the drug-induced death charges filed
against Ferguson and Potts, reasoning that the State lacked
territorial jurisdiction because neither the conduct (the
distribution of heroin) nor the result (the death of the
victim) -- the necessary elements for a conviction under
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 and for territorial jurisdiction under
N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1) -- occurred in New Jersey. In contrast,
the court found that the State had territorial jurisdiction
to prosecute Byrd for Cabral's drug-induced death because
the necessary conduct for a prosecution under N.J.S.A.
2C:35-9 and for territorial jurisdiction -- the distribution
of heroin -- occurred in New Jersey.
Appellate Division panel affirmed the dismissal of the
drug-induced death charge against Ferguson and Potts and
sustained the charge against Byrd for reasons similar to
those articulated by the trial court. 455 N.J.Super. 56,
66-69 (App. Div. 2018).
Court granted both the State's and Byrd's motions for
leave to appeal. 235 N.J. 205 (2018).
New Jersey does not have territorial jurisdiction to
prosecute Ferguson, Potts, or Byrd for the drug-induced death
of Cabral in New York.
first principle of any criminal prosecution is that a State
must have territorial jurisdiction to enforce the authority
of its laws. N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3 sets forth six pathways to
territorial jurisdiction, only one of which is relevant to
this case. Subsection (a)(1) of N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3 generally
provides that a person can be convicted of an offense under
New Jersey law if "[e]ither the conduct which is an
element of the offense or the result which is such an element
occurs within this State." Accordingly, if a
defendant's conduct or the result of his conduct are
elements of the crime charged and if either the conduct or
result occurred in New Jersey, the crime is prosecutable in
this State, unless one of the exceptions to territorial
jurisdiction delineated in N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3 applies. (pp.
Ferguson, Potts, and Byrd were charged with violating
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, the drug-induced death statute. The
elements required to prove a violation of the
strict-liability drug-induced death statute are (1) the
defendant distributed a controlled dangerous substance; (2)
the defendant did so knowingly or purposely; (3) the victim
used the substance distributed by the defendant; and (4) the
victim died as a result of the use of the substance
distributed by the defendant, and the death was not too
remote in its occurrence or too dependent upon the conduct of
another person. Under the drug-induced death statute, the
distribution of drugs is a conduct element and the
victim's death is a result element for purposes
of territorial jurisdiction. Based solely on N.J.S.A.
2C:1-3(a)(1), when the distribution occurs in New Jersey and
the drug-induced death in another state, the requisites for
territorial jurisdiction have been satisfied. (pp. 16-18)
the Code has exceptions to the general territorial
jurisdiction provision of N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1). N.J.S.A.
2C:1-3(b), see infra ¶ 6, acts as a restraint
on the reach of New Jersey's territorial jurisdiction
when one of its criminal laws is not aligned with the public
policy of another state, where the result of the conduct is
not criminal. Nevertheless, N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b) permits New
Jersey to prosecute conduct occurring in this State that
causes a result in another state, provided "a
legislative purpose plainly appears to declare the conduct
criminal regardless of the place of the result." (pp.
Court first addresses whether the State can exert territorial
jurisdiction over Ferguson and Potts for causing the
drug-induced death of Cabral. Because Cabral's death
occurred in New York (the result element), the issue for
jurisdictional purposes under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1) is
whether Ferguson and Potts distributed the heroin in New
Jersey (the conduct element). "'Distribute'
means to deliver . . . a controlled dangerous
substance," and "'delivery' means the
actual, constructive, or attempted transfer from one person
to another of a controlled dangerous substance."
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2. The distribution of drugs focuses on the
final transfer to a particular individual. Ferguson and Potts
made no "attempted transfer" or
"delivery" of drugs to Cabral in New Jersey. After
they purchased the drugs in Paterson, Ferguson and Potts
returned to New York, where they sold drugs and
delivered heroin to Cabral, acts that constituted
distribution. The State cannot establish an act of
distribution by Ferguson and Potts in New Jersey that would
allow the exercise of territorial jurisdiction on the
drug-induced death charge. Accordingly, the Appellate
Division properly affirmed the trial court's dismissal of
that charge against Ferguson and Potts. (pp. 20-24)
the case of Byrd, the Court reaches a different result on the
issue of "distribution." At the grand jury hearing,
the State presented evidence that Byrd distributed to
Ferguson and Potts in New Jersey the heroin they later sold
to Cabral -- the heroin Cabral ingested causing his death.
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 does not require that a defendant distribute
drugs directly to the victim to be found guilty of violating
the statute. The State has satisfied the conduct-element
requirement for territorial jurisdiction, thus rendering Byrd
generally subject to this State's territorial
jurisdiction under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1). (pp. 24-25)
only remaining question is whether Byrd's case falls
within the exception to territorial jurisdiction delineated
in N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b), which provides that subsection (a)(1)
will not apply when "causing a specified result . . . is
an element of an offense and the result occurs . . . in
another jurisdiction where the conduct charged would
not constitute an offense, unless a legislative purpose
plainly appears to declare the conduct criminal regardless of
the place of the result." In N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1), the
term "conduct which is an element of the offense"
refers to but one element of a completed crime. In contrast,
the term "conduct charged" suggests a completed
crime -- all the elements necessary to constitute an offense.
Here, "conduct charged" means the strict-liability
offense of a drug-induced death, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9. That
offense is not punishable as a crime in New York. Therefore,
New Jersey does not have territorial jurisdiction
"unless a legislative purpose plainly appears to
declare" that a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 is
prosecutable in this State, regardless of the place where the
drug-induced death occurred. See N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b).
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. (pp. 28-30)
judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed as to Ferguson
and Potts and reversed as to Byrd. The matter is remanded to
the trial court.
JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, PATTERSON,
FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in JUSTICE
criminal prosecution, the State must have territorial
jurisdiction to enforce its laws against a defendant.
State v. Denofa, 187 N.J. 24, 36 (2006). Generally,
the State can exercise territorial jurisdiction when either
the defendant's conduct or the result of that conduct
occurs in New Jersey and is an element of a criminal offense.
N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1). That general rule governing
territorial jurisdiction, however, has limits. Absent a clear
legislative purpose indicating otherwise, a defendant cannot
be prosecuted for "conduct charged" in New Jersey
when that defendant's acts within our borders cause a
result in another state where, under that state's law,
the "conduct charged" does not constitute a crime.
on the facts before us, 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 in the Town of Warwick. Cabral died of an
overdose in his home after taking the heroin originally sold
result of allegedly causing Cabral's death, Ferguson,
Potts, and Byrd were charged with violating New Jersey's
strict-liability drug-induced death statute, N.J.S.A.
2C:35-9. The three defendants facing that charge in New
Jersey cannot be prosecuted in New York for the
strict-liability drug-induced death of Cabral because New
York has no comparable criminal law. The issue is whether New
Jersey has territorial jurisdiction to prosecute the three
defendants under its strict-liability statute for
Cabral's drug-induced death, which occurred in New York
where the conduct charged is not criminal.
trial court concluded that the State did not have territorial
jurisdiction to prosecute Ferguson and Potts under the
drug-induced death statute because their conduct -- the
distribution of drugs -- and the result -- Cabral's death
-- both occurred in New York. In contrast, the court found
that Byrd was subject to this State's territorial
jurisdiction because he distributed in New Jersey the drugs
that eventually caused Cabral's death in New York and
because no statutory exception to territorial jurisdiction
bars his prosecution. The Appellate Division affirmed.
hold that New Jersey's Code of Criminal Justice restricts
the State's exercise of territorial jurisdiction over
Ferguson, Potts, and Byrd for a violation of N.J.S.A.
2C:35-9. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a)(1), the State cannot
exercise territorial jurisdiction over Ferguson and Potts on
the strict-liability drug-induced death charge because their
distribution of heroin to Cabral and Cabral's
death -- both essential elements of the offense -- did not
occur in New Jersey.
territorial jurisdiction present in Byrd's case on the
drug-induced death charge. Although Byrd distributed heroin
in New Jersey -- one element of the drug-induced death
offense -- N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b)'s exception to territorial
jurisdiction applies. That is so because the conduct charged
in New Jersey is not a crime in New York where the death
occurred. Significantly, (1) Cabral purchased the heroin from
Ferguson and Potts in New York and consumed the drugs there;
(2) Cabral's drug overdose and death occurred in
New York, which does not criminalize a drug-induced death as
a strict-liability offense; and (3) a "legislative
purpose" does not plainly appear authorizing the
prosecution in New Jersey of a strict-liability drug-induced
death, regardless of the state where the death occurs.
See N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(b).
the strict-liability drug-induced death charge brought
against defendants must be dismissed. We affirm in part and
reverse in part the judgment of the Appellate Division and
remand to the trial court for the prosecution of Ferguson,
Potts, and Byrd on the remaining drug counts in the
relevant facts are discerned from the grand jury testimony of
Detective Travis Johnson of the New Jersey Division of
Criminal Justice, the sole witness at those proceedings. We
recount only the facts ...