Title

It Could Have Been the Mountain Dew: Burrage v. U.S. and the Limits of Legal Liability for Illicit Drug Distribution

Presenter Information

Elizabeth Sayre

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Room 137A

Start Date

15-5-2014

End Date

15-5-2014

Keywords

Criminal Law, Legal Liability, Causation

Abstract

In order for an individual to be found criminally liable, the state must demonstrate all elements of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal law often mandates the elements of an act, intent, concurrence, harm, and causation. The following case clarifies the causal element, which is the relationship between the crime and the result. Marcus Burrage, a known drug dealer, sold heroin to Joshua Banka who died after consuming other drugs, including a portion of the heroin. Although other drugs were involved, Burrage was found guilty for Banka’s death. In order for causation to be demonstrated, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that if the criminal act were removed the harm would not occur. The Supreme Court held that the state did not effectively prove the element of causation resulting in Burrage’s conviction. The court reasoned that the heroin was not the cause in fact as Banka’s death was the result of a mixture of various illicit drugs, therefore the heroin’s existence in Banka’s system is not the sole reason his death occurred. This ruling helps to clarify ambiguities that surround causation in regards to criminal liability. This restriction within the scope of criminal law is important for states to recognize because a significant proportion of all overdoses involve a mixture of drugs. This presentation will review the facts, explain the Supreme Court’s decision, and discuss the implications of this case.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Stoddard, Cody

Additional Mentoring Department

Law and Justice

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May 15th, 9:40 AM May 15th, 10:00 AM

It Could Have Been the Mountain Dew: Burrage v. U.S. and the Limits of Legal Liability for Illicit Drug Distribution

SURC Room 137A

In order for an individual to be found criminally liable, the state must demonstrate all elements of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal law often mandates the elements of an act, intent, concurrence, harm, and causation. The following case clarifies the causal element, which is the relationship between the crime and the result. Marcus Burrage, a known drug dealer, sold heroin to Joshua Banka who died after consuming other drugs, including a portion of the heroin. Although other drugs were involved, Burrage was found guilty for Banka’s death. In order for causation to be demonstrated, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that if the criminal act were removed the harm would not occur. The Supreme Court held that the state did not effectively prove the element of causation resulting in Burrage’s conviction. The court reasoned that the heroin was not the cause in fact as Banka’s death was the result of a mixture of various illicit drugs, therefore the heroin’s existence in Banka’s system is not the sole reason his death occurred. This ruling helps to clarify ambiguities that surround causation in regards to criminal liability. This restriction within the scope of criminal law is important for states to recognize because a significant proportion of all overdoses involve a mixture of drugs. This presentation will review the facts, explain the Supreme Court’s decision, and discuss the implications of this case.