Wide Geographic Variations in DEA Sentences
(09 Jul 2008) The sentences imposed on individuals convicted in cases where the DEA was identified as the lead investigative agency vary widely in different parts of the country, according to Justice Department data obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In fiscal year 2007, for example, the median sentence -- half got more and half got less -- for the 111 individuals convicted as a result of investigations credited to the DEA in Illinois South (East St, Louis) was 146 months. Close to the opposite extreme were the 188 defendants in New York West (Buffalo) where the typical sentence was only 27 months.

Key factors determining the final sentence imposed in such cases include the kinds of matters the DEA investigators recommended for prosecution and the resulting agreements reached by the defendants and the assistant U.S attorneys about the charges that ultimately are brought against them. In other words, the discretionary power of the district judges is much less important than is generally understood.

Even when the comparison of the median DEA sentences focused on those recorded in selected "big city" districts, the variations were striking. In Texas North (Ft. Worth - Dallas) the typical 2007 sentence for the 202 defendants was 108 months. For the 238 such defendants in California Central (Los Angeles) the median was 60 months. But for the 133 DEA defendants in Eastern Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) the median was only 48 months.

For district-by-district DEA enforcement information on this and other subjects go to:
and click on "District Enforcement." For information about the gradual month-by-month decline in DEA prosecutions during the last five years, click on "DEA Prosecutions Filed" under the "Latest Figures" heading.

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