People v. McBurrows: Getting Venue Right for Delivery Causing Death Case

In the case of People v. McBurrows, the Court of Appeals deal with a venue questions. The defendant was charged with delivery of fentanyl causing death. Before trial, Defendant raised the issue of whether the Monroe County Circuit Court was the correct venue for the trial. Venue means which court will hear the case. A criminal case must be tried in the correct court.

The Facts in the Case

The case itself was relatively straightforward. Two men went to Wayne County to purchase heroin from defendant, who sold them heroin. The two men were actually sold fentanyl. One of them used the drug back in Monroe County, overdosed, and died.

Before Trial

Defendant filed a pre-trial motion arguing that venue was not proper in Monroe County. Defendant argued that the only act he committed took place in Wayne County, not in Monroe. The trial court denied the motion, ruling the case could be tried in either Wayne or Monroe County because elements of the charged offense occurred in both counties.

On Appeal

The defendant filed an interlocutory appeal (before trial) arguing that Monroe was not the right place for the trial.

The Law

The general rule on venue is that defendants should be tried in the county where the crime was committed. Therefore, the question for the court was this – where was the crime allegedly committed?

The crime was delivery of fentanyl causing death. MCL 750.317a provides that a person who deliver (deals, sells, etc) a schedule 1 or 2 substance (not marijuana), and a person who consumes that substance and as a result dies is guilty of a felony. The felony is punishable by life or any term of years.

The offense does not require the defendant to have intended the death of the person (a general intent crime).

The case of People v. Plunkett tells us that the death of the other person leads to a sentencing enhancement. The offense itself is complete once the drugs are sold.

In other words, the offense is delivery of a controlled substance. Delivery resulting in death simply means the punishment can be greater than simple drug dealing.

The Court’s Ruling

The alleged offense was complete in Wayne County. The drugs were sold in Wayne County. The decedent happened to die in another county. Therefore, venue is appropriate in Wayne County, not Monroe County.

What is Fentanyl?

The drug Fentanyl is a schedule 2 controlled substance. Fentanyl is included in the opiate painkiller category. While it is schedule 2 and heroin is a schedule 1, fentanyl is considered to be 75 times stronger than morphine, a strong drug in the opioid class. Heroin is often “cut” with fentanyl, meaning the heroin is diluted with the fenatnyl. Users don’t always know what they’re getting when they buy heroin, and fentanyl is one of the drugs. The possibility of overdose of fentanyl is high.

Get in Touch

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at

Sam Bernstein is a Washtenaw County Criminal Attorney.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 2750 Carpenter Rd #2, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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