Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions for December 2013

Number Latest Month 1,543
Percent Change from previous month -8.2
Percent Change from 1 year ago -10.1
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -9.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -21.8
Table 1: Criminal Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during December 2013 the government reported 1543 new narcotics/drugs prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 8.2% over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with narcotics/drugs-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. (See Table 1)

When monthly 2013 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-10.1 percent). Prosecutions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 9.4 percent from levels reported in 2008.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in narcotics/drugs prosecutions

The decrease from the levels five years ago in narcotics/drugs prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of narcotics/drugs prosecutions of this type recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.

Within the broad category of narcotics/drugs, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

Case types within narcotics/drugs are

  • Drug Trafficking

  • Simple Drug Possession

  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)

  • Major Project Triggerlock Prosecutions (OCDETF)

  • Other Triggerlock Prosecutions (OCDETF)

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in December 2013 was for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking", accounting for 86.1 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (12.1%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for narcotics/drugs prosecutions in December 2013 was DEA accounting for 36 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of narcotics/drugs referrals were: DHS (35% ), FBI (11%), ATF (6%), Local (5%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3: Prosecutions by investigative agency

Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In December 2013, 660 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases for these matters were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.

In the magistrate courts in December the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 involving the "Attempt and conspiracy". This was the lead charge for 45.6 percent of all magistrate filings in December.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (42.7%), "21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances" (8.2%).

Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In December 2013, 883 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during December there were an additional 427 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and therefore cover all matters filed in district court during December.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of narcotics/drugs matters filed in U.S. District Court during December 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 624 1 1 1 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 496 2 2 2 More
21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances 125 3 3 3 More
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 11 4 5 6 More
21 USC 963 - Attempt and conspiracy 11 4 4 4 More
46 USC 70503 - Possession control substance on vessel subject to jurisdiction of US 7 6 8 8 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 5 7 13 23 More
18 USC 846 - Explosives - Additional powers of the Secretary 5 7 26 11 More
18 USC 982 - Criminal forfeiture 4 9 - 43 More
21 USC 843 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts C 4 9 10 7 More
46 USC 70506 - Penalties 4 9 7 10 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841) was the most frequent recorded lead charge. "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846. "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Importation of controlled substances" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 952. "Importation of controlled substances" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 952 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 66.7 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 21 U.S.C Section 843 that involves " Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts C ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—400 percent—was registered for prosecutions under " Criminal forfeiture " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 982 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 56.9 percent—was Penalties (Title 46 U.S.C Section 70506 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 70.8 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Explosives - Additional powers of the Secretary " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 846 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In December 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 500.8 narcotics/drugs prosecutions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of narcotics/drugs prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3. Districts must have at least 5 narcotics/drugs prosecutions to receive a ranking.


Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
N Dakota 4,974 29 1 42 47 More
Cal, S 4,436 124 2 1 3 More
N Mexico 3,337 58 3 8 8 More
Texas, W 1,857 102 4 3 1 More
Ken, E 1,820 33 5 21 13 More
Texas, S 1,455 108 6 2 2 More
S Dakota 1,296 9 7 54 70 More
Texas, N 1,255 72 8 14 17 More
Arizona 1,245 68 9 4 6 More
La, E 1,179 16 10 66 44 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The District of North Dakota—with 4974 prosecutions as compared with 500.8 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during December 2013.

  • The Southern District of California (San Diego) ranked 2nd. The Southern District of California (San Diego) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 for most frequent use five years ago.

  • District of New Mexico is now ranking 3rd. The District of New Mexico was ranked 8 a year ago, while it was ranked 8 for most frequent use five years ago.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth), now ranked 8th , and Eastern District of Kentucky (Lexington) at 5th In the same order, these districts ranked 14th and 21st one year ago and 17th and 13th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of narcotics/drugs prosecutions compared to one year ago— 102.5 percent—was Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 93.6 percent—was Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of narcotics/drugs prosecutions— 45.5 percent—was South Dakota .  But over the past five years, Western District of Texas (San Antonio) showed the largest drop— 39.6 percent.

Top Ranked District Judges

At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new narcotics/drugs crime cases of this type during December 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
O'Connor, Reed Charles Texas, N 33 1 63 273 More
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 25 2 1 1 More
Erickson, Ralph R. N Dakota 24 3 22 18 More
Reidinger, Martin Karl N Car, W 22 4 88 468 More
Love, John D. Texas, E 20 5 718 713 More
Brinkema, Leonie M. Virg, E 19 6 194 431 More
Burns, Larry Alan Cal, S 18 7 25 9 More
Cummings, Samuel Ray Texas, N 16 8 97 213 More
Houston, John A. Cal, S 15 9 22 16 More
Thapar, Amul Roger Ken, E 15 9 63 137 More
Vazquez, Martha Alicia N Mexico 15 9 229 39 More
Garcia Marmolejo, Marina Texas, S 15 9 36 - More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 9 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of narcotics/drugs filings per capita, while the remaining 3 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 12 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge Reed Charles O'Connor in the Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth) ranked 1st with 33 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases.

  • Judge Robert A. Junell in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 2nd with 25 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases. Judge Junell appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 1) and five years ago (rank 1).

  • Judge Ralph R. Erickson in the District of North Dakota ranked 3rd with 24 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases.

Report Generated: February 11, 2014
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