Notice and Drug Crimes – Burrage v. United States – pt. II


Notice and Drug Crimes pt. 2- Burrage v. United States

A Two Part Series

Part II

This is a continuation of an earlier blog regarding the case Burrage v. United States. Burrage was convicted of an additional twenty years for a drug sale that resulted in death. Burrage’s attorney took exception to the jury instruction given by the Judge that the drug, in this case heroin, did not have to be the actual cause of the death. It only had to be a contributing factor.


Burrage’s attorney argued that the words “contributing cause” were not in the 1986 law that Burrage was convicted under. Burrage’s attorney argued at length that in order to convict an individual under this . 1986 law, the prosecutor must show without the heroin, the buyer of the illegal drug would not have died. An alternative argument offered by Burrage’s attorney, although not as strong, was that the buyer’s death had to be foreseeable as a result of the illicit drug sale.


The Government’s attorney argued that the questionable 1986 law enacted by Congress was done so with the understanding that a drug dealer selling a drug such as heroin should be not surprised if that sale results in an “overdose death.” The Justices did not seem to buy into this argument, immediately peppering the attorney with questions about how much of the illicit drug would need to be present in the buyer’s system to justify the additional sentence. At times, the Justices even seem confused by the Government’s attorney’s arguments.


Although a decision is not likely to be made for some time, it could drastically change the potential prison sentences for those convicted of drug sales that result in death.p>

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