On June 1, 2018, a three-judge appellate panel decided the Passaic County case of State v. Noel Ferguson, et al. The principal issue before the Court under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3 was whether the prosecution had jurisdiction to prosecute defendants for strict liability drug-induced death under N.J.S. A. 2C:35-9(a) when they purchased heroin in New Jersey and later sold it to the victim in New York. In relevant part the Court held as follows:
Under our Code of Criminal Justice, territorial jurisdiction is classified as an element of an offense that ultimately must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There must be territorial jurisdiction in New Jersey for the State to prosecute a crime here. The State has the power to prosecute crimes that occurred within its borders but may not bring charges for offenses committed entirely in another state or country.
Any objection to the State’s jurisdiction to prosecute a crime should be raised as early as possible before trial.” Here, “Defendants properly brought their motion to dismiss based on territorial jurisdiction early in the proceedings.”
“The various methods that allow for jurisdiction in a criminal case all require a direct nexus to New Jersey.” These methods are clearly set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:1-3(a), which provides as follows:
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person may be convicted under the law of this State of an offense committed by his own conduct or the conduct of another for which he is legally accountable if:
(1) Either the conduct which is an element of the offense or the result which is such an element occurs within this State;
(2) Conduct occurring outside the State is sufficient under the law of this State to constitute an attempt to commit a crime within the State;
(3) Conduct occurring outside the State is sufficient under the law of this State to constitute a conspiracy to commit an offense within the State and an overt act in furtherance of such conspiracy occurs within the State;
(4) Conduct occurring within the State establishes complicity in the commission of, or an attempt, or conspiracy to commit, an offense in another jurisdiction which also is an offense under the law of this State;
(5) The offense consists of the omission to perform a legal duty imposed by the law of this State with respect to domicile, residence or a relationship to a person, thing or transaction in the State; or
(6) The offense is based on a statute of this State which expressly prohibits conduct outside the State, when the conduct bears a reasonable relation to a legitimate interest of this State and the actor knows or should know that his conduct is likely to affect that interest.
Number one is the broadest of these six bases. However, the defendants are not charged with the mere purchase or possession heroin.