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 December 2020 the government reported 5882 new prosecutions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 4.2 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 2020 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was down (-49.8%).
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 39.6 percent from levels reported in 2015.
The dip 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 decrease in
prosecutions is 11.1 percent instead of 39.6 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 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 December 2020 was for "Immigration", accounting for 30.7 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (15.9%), "Withheld by Govt from TRAC (FOIA challen" (15.9%), "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major" (12.5%), "Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (4.3%), "Other Criminal Prosecutions" (3%), "Project Safe Childhood" (2.9%), "Assimilated Crimes" (2.5%).
See Figure 2.
The lead investigative agency for prosecutions in December 2020
was DHS accounting for 42 percent of prosecutions referred.
Other agencies with substantial numbers of referrals were:
FBI (16% ), DEA (13%), ATF (12%), Defense (3%).
See Figure 3.
Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions
Figure 3. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency
Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In December 2020, 2562 defendants 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 8 U.S.C Section 1326 involving "Reentry of deported alien". This was the lead charge
for 34.7 percent of all magistrate filings in December.
Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "08 USC 1324 - Bringing in and harboring certain aliens" (14.1%), "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (8.1%), "21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances" (7%), "18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts" (5.2%).
Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In December 2020, 3320 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during December there
were an additional 1967 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 matters
filed in U.S. District Court during December 2020.
"Reentry of deported alien" (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.
"Reentry of deported alien" (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.
Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "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 4 five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "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.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in prosecutions — up 36 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 21 U.S.C Section 952
that involves " Importation of controlled substances ".
Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 281.1 percent — was registered for
prosecutions under "Other US Code Section " (Title U.S.C Section ).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 57.2 percent — was
" Reentry of deported alien " (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326 ).
This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 27.3 % — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In December 2020 the Justice Department's case-by-case records show that the government brought 1932.9 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 Texas (Houston) — with 10550 prosecutions as compared with 1932.9 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during December 2020.
The Southern District of Texas (Houston) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 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 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 for most frequent use five years ago.
District of New Mexico is now ranking 3rd.
The District of New Mexico was ranked 4 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 for most frequent use five years ago.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis), now ranked
, and Western District of Tennessee (Memphis)
In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 31st one year ago and 21st and 41st five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago — 96.8 percent — was
Northern District of Oklahoma (Tulsa).
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 325.6 percent — when compared with five years ago.
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in the rate of prosecutions — 74.1 percent — was
New Mexico .
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 69.7 percent — when compared with five years ago.
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 December 2020 are shown in Table 4.
All 10 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of filings per capit.
Judge Alia M. Moses in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 215 defendants in cases.
Judge Moses appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 1) and five years ago (rank 1).
Judges Micaela Alvarez in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) and Diana Saldana in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 2nd with 102 defendants in cases.
Judge Saldana also appeared in the top ten rankings one year ago (ranked 3).