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 September 2019 the government reported 1335 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 13.1 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 2019 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was up (2.6%).
Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were five years ago.
Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 12.7 percent from levels reported in 2014.
The growth in
these cases is partly related to increases in the matters filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. If magistrate cases
are excluded and only Federal District Court cases are counted, the overall increase in
prosecutions is 6 percent instead of 12.7 percent.
The evidence suggests that part of the difference may be the result of improvements in the recording of the magistrate cases
by the Justice Department.
Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Prosecutions
The increase 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 September 2019 was for "Withheld by Govt from TRAC (FOIA challen", accounting for 25.2 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (12.6%), "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major" (10.8%), "Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (9.8%), "Project Safe Childhood" (7.2%), "Violence-Other" (5.3%), "Fraud-Health Care" (4.3%), "Bank Robbery" (3.2%), "Violence-Indian Country" (3.1%), "Other Criminal Prosecutions" (2.8%), "Fraud-Computer" (2.2%), "Fraud-Other" (2%).
See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions
Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In September 2019, 254 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 September the most frequently cited lead charge was
Title U.S.C Section involving "Other US Code Section". This was the lead charge
for 9.8 percent of all magistrate filings in September.
Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (8.3%), "18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts" (7.9%), "18 USC 2113 - Bank robbery and incidental crimes" (5.9%), "18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act" (5.1%), "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (5.1%).
Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In September 2019, 1081 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during September there
were an additional 156 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 September.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of matters
filed in U.S. District Court during September 2019 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 2 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 1 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 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 five years ago.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in prosecutions — up 42 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 1344
that involves " Bank Fraud ".
Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 205 percent — was registered for
prosecutions under " Firearms; Unlawful acts " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 ).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 27.2 percent — was
" Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371 ).
This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 43.2 % — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In September 2019 the Justice Department's case-by-case records show that the government brought 455.7 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 Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston) — with 5395 prosecutions as compared with 455.7 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during September 2019.
The Southern District of Alabama (Mobile) ranked 2nd.
District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) is now ranking 3rd.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Washington, D.C. (Washington), now ranked
, and Montana
In the same order, these districts ranked 12th and 21st one year ago and 55th and 27th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago — 183.3 percent — was
Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston).
Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 261.9 percent — was
Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in the rate of prosecutions — 43.3 percent — was
Washington, D.C. (Washington).
But over the past five years,
Southern District of Georgia (Savannah)
showed the largest drop — 39.1 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 September 2019 are shown in Table 4.
A total of 4 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 7 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)
Judges Earl Leroy Yeakel, III in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) and Robert Charles Chambers in the Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston) ranked 1st with 21 defendants in cases.
Judge Israel Leo Glasser in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) ranked 3rd with 18 defendants in cases.