29 March 2017

Federal Criminal Prosecutions Down

The decline in federal criminal prosecutions is good news but not likely to carry over into the Trump administration as much of it results from a change in Justice Department priorities during the Obama Administration.
Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 77,152 defendants in fiscal year 2016, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That’s a decline of 25% since fiscal 2011, when 102,617 defendants were charged, and marks the lowest yearly total since 1997. The data count all defendants charged in U.S. district courts with felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as some defendants charged with petty offenses. They exclude defendants whose cases were handled by magistrate judges. 
Prosecutions for drug, immigration and property offenses – the three most common categories of crime charged by the federal government – all have declined over the past five years. The Justice Department filed drug charges against 24,638 defendants in 2016, down 23% from 2011. It filed immigration charges against 20,762 defendants, down 26%. And it charged 10,712 people with property offenses such as fraud and embezzlement, a 39% decline. 
However, prosecutions for other, less frequently charged crime types have increased slightly. For example, prosecutors charged 8,576 defendants with gun crimes in 2016, a 3% increase over 2011 (and a 9% single-year increase over 2015). And they charged 2,897 people with violent crimes such as murder, robbery and assault, a 4% increase from five years earlier. . . . Federal marijuana prosecutions fell to 5,158 in 2016, down 39% from five years earlier.
From Pew.

For comparison purposes, state and local prosecutors filed more than 19,823,723 criminal charges in the year 2010. Federal prosecutions make up roughly 0.5% of all criminal prosecutions filed in the United States, although the share of felony prosecutions filed in federal court is considerably higher.

There were more than 2,555,530 state and local prosecutions for felonies in general jurisdiction courts in 2010. Federal cases probably account for 2%-4% of the total number of felony prosecutions in the United States each year.

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