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Court Connections

 

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By the Numbers is a recurring column by the Judiciary Data and Analysis Office (JDAO) discussing data on the workload of the Judiciary. The focus of this column alternates among trends in filings in the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Sometimes a court-by-court analysis is provided.

The U.S. district courts’ criminal data is reported in two major categories: criminal cases and criminal defendants. Most often, criminal data is tracked according to the number of defendants, for a single criminal case may have multiple defendants. Below, we examine criminal defendant filings for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2019.

  • Figure 1: During the 12-month period ending September 30, 2019, the U.S. district courts had 92,678 defendant filings (up 6.3 percent from the previous year) and had 85,650 defendant terminations (up 7.2 percent). At the end of that period, the total for defendants pending was 113,987 (up 6.1 percent). The number of defendants pending has increased 15.7 percent over the last five years, due in part to a rise in defendants’ filings.
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  • Criminal Defendent Filings
  • Map 1: Criminal defendant filings ranged from 22 defendants in the District of the Northern Mariana Islands district to 10,423 defendants in the Western District of Texas. The Southern District of Texas received 9,416 defendants, the Southern District of California received 5,872 defendants, the District of Arizona received 5,829 defendants, and the District of New Mexico received 4,454 defendants. The mean number of defendant filings for all districts was 986. The southwestern border districts received higher numbers of defendants because most prosecutions for immigration offenses tend to occur near the nation’s border with Mexico.
    US Map
  • Figure 2: In 2019, 31,335 defendants across the nation were charged with immigration law violations, making this the largest offense category. Filings of immigration defendants have surged 53.7 percent since 2017 to surpass defendant filings involving drug offenses. Drug crime defendants totaled 24,722 in 2019, up 10.9 percent from 2017 and up 11.5 percent from 2014. Filings of defendants prosecuted for firearms and explosive offenses have risen 69.1 percent from 2014 to 12,575 in 2019. Filings of defendants charged with property offenses have declined 21 percent over the same time. Defendant filings related to sex crimes, violent crimes, general offenses, regulatory offenses, justice system offenses, and traffic offenses have all remained relatively consistent over the last six years.
    By Offense
  • Figure 3: The length of sentences of imprisonment varied in 2019 based on the offense for which a defendant was convicted. The median sentence length imposed on convicted sex offenders was 108 months, whereas convicted immigration offenders received a median sentence length of 10 months. For defendants sentenced to supervision, the length of the supervision period topped at 48 months for sex offenders. The median period of supervision was 36 months.
    Sentenced After Conviction
  • Figure 4: The length of sentences of imprisonment varied in 2019 based on the offense for which a defendant was convicted. The median sentence length imposed on convicted sex offenders was 108 months, whereas convicted immigration offenders received a median sentence length of 10 months. For defendants sentenced to supervision, the length of the supervision period topped at 48 months for sex offenders. The median period of supervision was 36 months.
    Median Lengths

For more information on U.S. appellate court activity, please visit our U.S. District Caseload Explorer.

For more information on these statistics, please direct inquiries to JDAO Statisticians John Golmant, 202-502-1684, or Annemarie Kuhns, 202-502-2650.

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On September 22nd, 1986 Tom Gahl became the first United States Probation Officer to be killed in the line of duty. This video commemorates the 25th anniversary of his death.