Drug Enforcement Administration
Prosecutions Dip to Eleven-Year Low

Number Latest Month 968
Percent Change from previous month -20.6
Percent Change from 1 year ago -10.5
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -8.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -12.3
Table 1: Criminal Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during November 2011 the government reported 968 new prosecutions for these matters. Those cases were referred by the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 20.6% 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 2011 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-10.5 percent). 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 8.4 percent from levels reported in 2006.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

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.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions

Cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in November 2011 was for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking", accounting for 55.6 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Withheld by Govt from TRAC - FOIA challenge" (20.8%), " Drugs-Organized Crime Task Force" (20.6%). See Figure 2.

Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In November 2011, 251 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 November the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 involving the "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A". This was the lead charge for 63.7 percent of all magistrate filings in November.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (30.7%).

Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In November 2011, 717 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during November there were an additional 266 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 November.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of matters filed in U.S. District Court during November 2011referred by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 381 1 1 1 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 327 2 2 2 More
21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances 17 3 13 11 More
46 USC 70506 - Penalties 8 4 28 - More
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 7 5 6 3 More
18 USC 846 - Explosives - Additional powers of the Secretary 6 6 34 33 More
08 USC 1325 - Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. 3 7 41 13 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 3 7 3 8 More
18 USC 1952 - Racketeering -interstate/foreign travel/transport 3 7 20 16 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 2 10 16 40 More
21 USC 352 - Misbranded Drugs and Devices 2 10 - - More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "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 1 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 2 five years ago.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Importation of controlled substances" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 952.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 350 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 846 that involves " Explosives - Additional powers of the Secretary ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—2100 percent—was registered for prosecutions under " Hobbs Act " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 69 percent—was Firearms; Penalties (Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 60 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. " (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In November 2011 the Justice Department said the government brought 384.2 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.

Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
N Dakota 4,267 23 1 80 64 More
Texas, W 1,722 88 2 4 2 More
Delaware 1,627 12 3 85 87 More
Virg, W 1,526 27 4 25 10 More
N Mexico 1,433 24 5 6 6 More
Iowa, N 1,380 15 6 27 38 More
Texas, S 1,370 96 7 2 1 More
N. Y., S 1,355 58 8 11 9 More
Vermont 1,351 7 9 80 88 More
Ken, E 1,273 23 10 26 36 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The District of North Dakota—with 4267 prosecutions as compared with 384.2 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during November 2011.

  • The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 2nd. The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) was ranked 4 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 for most frequent use five years ago.

  • District of Delaware is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Southern District of New York (Manhattan), now ranked 8th , and Western District of Virginia (Roanoke) at 4th In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 25th one year ago and 9th and 10th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago— 193.3 percent—was North Dakota . Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 366.7 percent—was Vermont .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of prosecutions— 36.1 percent—was New Mexico .  But over the past five years, Western District of Virginia (Roanoke) showed the largest drop— 52.3 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 November 2011 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 48 1 2 1 More
Alvarez, Micaela Texas, S 29 2 13 13 More
Erickson, Ralph R. N Dakota 23 3 189 37 More
Mcbryde, John Texas, N 20 4 127 46 More
Reeves, Danny C. Ken, E 18 5 360 51 More
Schell, Richard A. Texas, E 17 6 25 66 More
Bredar, James K. Maryland 14 7 - - More
Ishii, Anthony W. Cal, E 13 8 91 12 More
Conway, Anne C. Fla, M 12 9 - 234 More
Bennett, Mark W. Iowa, N 12 9 50 104 More
Hinojosa, Ricardo H. Texas, S 12 9 72 104 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 6 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 5 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge Robert A. Junell in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 48 defendants in cases. Judge Junell appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 2) and five years ago (rank 1).

  • Judge Micaela Alvarez in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 2nd with 29 defendants in cases.

  • Judge Ralph R. Erickson in the District of North Dakota ranked 3rd with 23 defendants in cases.

Report Date: February 20, 2012
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Copyright 2012, TRAC Reports, Inc.