Prosecutions for March 2014

Referring Agency: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Number Latest Month 623
Percent Change from previous month 21.4
Percent Change from 1 year ago -21.9
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -30.3
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -32.0
Table 1. Criminal Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during March 2014 the government reported 623 new prosecutions for these matters. Those cases were referred by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 21.4 percent over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged 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 2014 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-21.9%). 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 30.3 percent from levels reported in 2009.

Bar and line plot of FYMON

Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Prosecutions

The decrease from the levels five years ago in prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of 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.

Cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in March 2014 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 60.2 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Withheld by Govt from TRAC (FOIA challen" ( 19.1%), "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (13.8%), "Other Criminal Prosecutions" (2.4%). See Figure 2.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions

Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In March 2014, 87 defendants in 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 March the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 involving "Firearms; Unlawful acts". This was the lead charge for 54 percent of all magistrate filings in March.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act" (9.2%), "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (8%), "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (8%).

Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In March 2014, 536 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during March there were an additional 53 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 March.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of matters filed in U.S. District Court during March 2014 referred by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 323 1 1 1 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 44 2 2 2 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 42 3 3 3 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 20 4 4 4 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 16 5 7 7 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 14 6 5 6 More
18 USC 545 - Smuggling goods into the United States 3 7 32 21 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 3 7 6 5 More
18 USC 472 - Uttering counterfeit obligations or securities 2 9 - - More
18 USC 844 - Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives 2 9 8 10 More
18 USC 1791 - Providing or possessing contraband in prison 2 9 - 25 More
Table 2. Top Charges Filed

  • "Firearms; Unlawful acts" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922) was the most frequent recorded lead charge. "Firearms; Unlawful acts" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841. "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846. "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 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 700 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 545 that involves " Smuggling goods into the United States ". This was the same statute that had the largest increase — 166.7 % — when compared with five years ago.

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 62.5 percent — was " Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 844 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions — 50.5 percent — was for filings where the lead charge was " Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts " (Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In March 2014 the Justice Department said the government brought 225.2 prosecutions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of 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 prosecutions to receive a ranking.


Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Tenn, W 2,730 36 1 11 2 More
Delaware 1,832 14 2 77 61 More
Tenn, E 1,693 36 3 13 9 More
Ala, S 1,438 10 4 46 43 More
Vermont 1,150 6 5 71 87 More
Montana 955 8 6 52 51 More
Ga, S 936 12 7 27 22 More
N Dakota 858 5 8 50 79 More
Virg, W 828 15 9 17 18 More
N Car, E 687 22 10 5 3 More
Table 3. Top 10 Districts (per ten million people)

  • The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) — with 2730 prosecutions as compared with 225.2 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during March 2014.

  • The District of Delaware ranked 2nd.

  • Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), now ranked 1st , and Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) at 3rd In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 13th one year ago and 2nd and 9th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago — 46.7 percent — was Delaware . Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 87.5 percent — was Vermont .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of prosecutions — 42.9 percent — was North Dakota .  But over the past five years, Southern District of Georgia (Savannah) showed the largest drop — 48.1 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 crime cases of this type during March 2014 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Mays, Samuel H., Jr. Tenn, W 18 1 More
Greer, J. Ronnie Tenn, E 16 2 More
Andrews, Richard Gibson Delaware 14 3 More
Urbanski, Michael Francis Virg, W 14 3 More
Breen, J. Daniel Tenn, W 12 5 More
Boyle, Terrence William N Car, E 10 6 More
Lemelle, Ivan L. R. La, E 9 7 More
Edmunds, Nancy Garlock Mich, E 9 7 More
Delgado-Colon, Aida M. Puer Rico 7 9 More
Varlan, Thomas A. Tenn, E 7 9 More
Table 4. Top Ten Judges

A total of 7 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of filings per capita, while the remaining 3 judges were from other districts.

  • Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr. in the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) ranked 1st with 18 defendants in cases.

  • Judge J. Ronnie Greer in the Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) ranked 2nd with 16 defendants in cases.

  • Judges Richard Gibson Andrews in the District of Delaware and Michael Francis Urbanski in the Western District of Virginia (Roanoke) ranked 3rd with 14 defendants in cases.

Report Generated: May 13, 2014
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