Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions for February 2013

Number Latest Month 1,803
Percent Change from previous month -3.2
Percent Change from 1 year ago -11.3
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -5.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -20.4
Table 1: Criminal Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during February 2013 the government reported 1803 new narcotics/drugs prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 3.2% 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 (-11.3 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 5.6 percent from levels reported in 2008.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in narcotics/drugs prosecutions

The leveling out 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 February 2013 was for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking", accounting for 80 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (16.5%), " Drugs-Simple Drug Possession" (3.4%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for narcotics/drugs prosecutions in February 2013 was DEA accounting for 41 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of narcotics/drugs referrals were: DHS (34% ), FBI (9%), ATF (4%), Local (4%). 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 February 2013, 831 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 February the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 involving the "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A". This was the lead charge for 39.6 percent of all magistrate filings in February.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (39.6%), "21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances" (11.8%), "21 USC 844 - Penalty for simple possession" (6.1%).

Narcotics/Drugs Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In February 2013, 972 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during February there were an additional 436 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 February.

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 February 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 700 1 1 1 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 483 2 2 2 More
21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances 130 3 3 3 More
18 USC 1956 - Laundering of monetary instruments 13 4 8 6 More
18 USC 1955 - Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses 9 5 - 47 More
46 USC 70506 - Penalties 8 6 12 14 More
21 USC 843 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts C 7 7 10 7 More
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 6 8 4 10 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 5 9 14 12 More
18 USC 1791 - Providing or possessing contraband in prison 5 9 19 24 More
21 USC 844 - Penalty for simple possession 5 9 9 5 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 95.5 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 that involves " Firearms; Penalties ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—800 percent—was registered for prosecutions under " Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1955 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 39.6 percent—was Penalty for simple possession (Title 21 U.S.C Section 844 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease— 68.8 %—when compared with five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In February 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 550.3 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  
Cal, S 4,024 108 1 1 3 More
Texas, W 3,836 196 2 3 1 More
Wash, E 2,201 27 3 49 62 More
Texas, S 2,126 149 4 4 2 More
N Mexico 1,911 32 5 7 8 More
Ill, S 1,790 19 6 72 57 More
R. I. 1,481 13 7 87 85 More
S Dakota 1,329 9 8 74 80 More
Arizona 1,292 71 9 2 6 More
Ken, E 1,273 23 10 28 18 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The Southern District of California (San Diego)—with 4024 prosecutions as compared with 550.3 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during February 2013. 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.

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

  • Eastern District of Washington (Spokane) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Kentucky (Lexington), now ranked 10th , and Eastern District of Washington (Spokane) at 3rd In the same order, these districts ranked 28th and 49th one year ago and 18th and 62nd five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of narcotics/drugs prosecutions compared to one year ago— 200 percent—was Rhode Island . This was the same district that had the largest increase— 118.2 percent—when compared with five years ago.

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of narcotics/drugs prosecutions— 54.2 percent—was Arizona .  But over the past five years, Western District of Texas (San Antonio) showed the largest drop— 45.5 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 February 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 54 1 1 1 More
Ramos, Nelva Gonzales Texas, S 49 2 28 - More
Yeakel, Earl Leroy, III Texas, W 36 3 358 173 More
Hanen, Andrew S. Texas, S 20 4 88 29 More
Garcia, Orlando Luis Texas, W 19 5 59 43 More
Dlott, Susan J. Ohio, S 18 6 - 516 More
Saldana, Diana Texas, S 16 7 24 582 More
Moses, Alia Texas, W 16 7 3 - More
Nielsen, William Fremming Wash, E 16 7 65 307 More
Underhill, Stefan R. Conn 14 10 458 642 More
Montalvo, Frank Texas, W 14 10 35 7 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 2 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge Robert A. Junell in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 54 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases. Judge Junell appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 1) and five years ago (rank 1).

  • Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 2nd with 49 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases.

  • Judge Earl Leroy Yeakel, III in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 3rd with 36 defendants in narcotics/drugs cases.

Report Generated: April 23, 2013
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