Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court)
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court)
Table 1. Criminal Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during August 2023 the government reported 1168 new prosecutions for these matters. Those cases were referred by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 24.4 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 2023 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was up (2.7%).
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 10.4 percent from levels reported in 2018.
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 August 2023 was for "Withheld by Govt from TRAC (FOIA challen", accounting for 24.7 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (14.6%), "Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (11%), "Project Safe Childhood" (9.4%), "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major" (7.2%), "Violence-Other" (6.2%), "Fraud-Other" (4.2%), "Violence-Indian Country" (3.5%), "Terrorism-Domestic" (3.3%), "Bank Robbery" (2.1%).
See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions
Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In August 2023, 204 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 August the most frequently cited lead charge was
Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 involving "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A". This was the lead charge
for 14.2 percent of all magistrate filings in August.
Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts" (8.3%), "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (5.4%).
Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In August 2023, 964 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during August there
were an additional 125 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 August.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of matters
filed in U.S. District Court during August 2023 referred by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A
"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 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "Firearms; Unlawful acts" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 922.
"Firearms; Unlawful acts" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 was ranked 2 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 103.3 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 1201
that involves " Kidnaping ".
This was the same statute that had the largest increase — 134.6 % — 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 27 percent — was
" Firearms; Unlawful acts " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 ).
Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions — 49.7 percent — was
for filings where the lead charge was " Bank robbery and incidental crimes " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 2113 ).
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In August 2023 the Justice Department's case-by-case records show that the government brought 393.7 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.
Table 3. Top 10 Districts (per ten million people)
The District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) — with 11641 prosecutions as compared with 393.7 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during August 2023.
The District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) was ranked 2 a year ago.
The District of Alaska ranked 2nd.
Western District of Kentucky (Louisville) is now ranking 3rd.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
South Dakota , now ranked
, and Utah
In the same order, these districts ranked 26th and 36th one year ago and 51st and 20th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago — 116.7 percent — was
Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 288.9 percent — was
Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in the rate of prosecutions — 20.3 percent — was
South Dakota .
But over the past five years,
Southern District of Alabama (Mobile)
showed the largest drop — 36.5 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 crime cases of this type during August 2023 are shown in Table 4.
A total of 5 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 6 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)
Judge Howard Curtis Nielson, Jr. in the District of Utah ranked 1st with 31 defendants in cases.
Judge M. David Weisman in the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) ranked 2nd with 18 defendants in cases.
Judges Christopher Reid Cooper in the District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) and J. Nicholas Ranjan in the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) ranked 3rd with 16 defendants in cases.