BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Home  |  About Us  |  Contact Us  |  Help  |  A-Z Topic List
 
 
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Home  |  Drugs and Crime Facts
Drugs and Crime Facts

Drug law violations

Pretrial, prosecution, and adjudication

Pretrial release | Prosecution and adjudication


Pretrial release

Federal court

About 64% of federal drug defendants adjudicated were detained between arrest and adjudication during 2006. Of those defendants released prior to adjudication, 31% received at least one violation while on release; 12% had their release revoked.

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

Defendants charged with drug or weapon offenses who were released prior to trial and terminated pretrial services during 2006, were more likely than other defendants to incur at least one violation during the release period (31% and 35%, respectively).

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

 
State court

The State Court Processing Statistics (SCPS) program revealed that of persons charged with a felony drug offense in 2004 in the 75 most populous counties --

  • 60% were released prior to case disposition
  • 35% were held on bail
  • 5% were denied bail
Pretrial status of defendants charged with drug offenses, 1998-2004

Pretrial status and type of release 1998 2000 2004

  Total 100 % 100 % 100 %
Released 68 % 64 % 60 %
  Financial total 33 % 31 % 32 %
    Surety bond 23   22   24  
    Deposit bond 5   7   7  
    Full cash bond 3   1   1  
    Property bond 2   --   1  
  Nonfinancial total 34 % 33 % 28 %
  Emergency release --   --   --  
Detained 32 % 35 % 35 %
                 
Note: Detail may not add to total because of rounding
-- Less than 0.5%.
 
Source: BJS, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2004, NCJ 221152, April 2008.

In 2004, among felony drug defendants, those charged with drug trafficking and other drug offenses were the same to be released (60%) for each.

Percent of felony defendants released before trial, by type of offense, 1998-2004

Most serious felony arrest charge 1998 2000 2004

All offenses 64 % 62 % 57 %
               
Violent offenses            
  Murder 13   13   12  
  Rape 47   56   52  
  Robbery 38   44   42  
  Assault 62

61   55  
Property offenses            
  Burglary 50   49   46  
  Theft 73   68   58  
Drug offenses 68   64   60  
  Trafficking 63   62   60  
  Other drug 72   66   60  
Public-order offenses 69   66   65  

Source: BJS, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2004, NCJ 221152, April 2008.

In 2004 detained drug defendants had a median bail amount of $25,000. Among drug defendants, those charged with drug trafficking (23%) were about twice as likely to have bail set at $50,000 or more, compared to other drug defendants (14%).

Of felony drug defendants released prior to the disposition of their case, 53% were released within 1 day of their arrest, 81% within 1 week, and 93% within 1 month.

In 2004 of felony drug defendants released before case disposition, 24% failed to make a scheduled court appearance within 1 year. Eighteen percent of the drug defendants who failed to appear returned to court by the end of the 1-year study period, while 6% remained fugitives. By original arrest offense category, released drug defendants (21%) had the highest rearrest rate. This included 14% of defendants released after being charged with drug trafficking.

Source: BJS, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2004, NCJ 221152, April 2008.

 

up arrow To the top


Prosecution and adjudication

Prosecution of drug law violators

Federal

U.S. attorneys initiated investigations involving 35,210 suspects for drug offenses in 2006.

Drug defendants comprised 33% of defendants in criminal cases filed in federal court in 2006. Immigration defendants made up 20% of cases filed in 2006.

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

Drug and weapon offenders were more likely than others to be prosecuted before U.S. district court judges (77% and 69%, respectively). U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 15% of drug offenders investigated during 2006. During 2006, almost a quarter (24%) of those declined for prosecution were referred to other authorities for prosecution or received an alternative resolution. During 1981 drug defendants accounted for less than a fifth of all federal prosecutions compared to 35% in 2006.

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

Of cases concluded in federal district court since 1989, drug and public order cases (includes immigration offenders) have increased at the greatest rate.

Federal cases by type[D]

Click on the chart to view the data.

Note: Public order offenses include weapons and immigration offenses.
Source: BJS, Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, annual and Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

Approximately 93% of drug defendants adjudicated during 2006 were convicted, compared to 76% during 1981. Thirty-seven percent of drug defendants convicted during 2005 were identified as noncitizens.

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2005, NCJ 218524, September 2008 and Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

The proportion of defendants sentenced to prison increased from 54% during 1988 to 80% during 2006. The proportion of drug offenders sentenced to prison increased from 79% to 93%.

Prison sentences imposed increased from an average of 55.1 months during 1988 to 59.7 months during 2006. For drug offenses, prison sentences increased from an average of 71.3 months to 87.2 months; for weapons offenses, sentences imposed increased from 52.3 months to 88.4 months.

Source: BJS, Federal Justice Statistics 2006, Statistical Tables, NCJ 225711, May 2009.

Drug offenders involved with crack cocaine (114 months), possessing a firearm (133 months), or with extensive prior records (125 months) received the longest prison terms, on average, during 1999.

Twenty-eight percent of convicted federal drug defendants received a reduced sentence for providing substantial assistance to prosecutors.

Source: BJS, Federal Drug Offenders, 1999 with Trends 1984-99, NCJ 187285, August 2001.

In addition to the 1,477 defendants charged with money laundering as the primary charge during 2001, money laundering was a secondary offense in 630 cases. Of these 630 cases, the most serious offense charged was drug-related (90%), followed by property (6%), public-order (4%), and violent offenses (1%).

Ninety-two percent of the 623 defendants adjudicated for money laundering as a secondary offense during 2001 were convicted. Of those convicted, 6% of convictions were obtained via trial verdicts. Drug trafficking had the highest rate of conviction (92%).

About 90% of defendants convicted of money laundering as a secondary offense received a prison sentence. Rates of imprisonment varied across the types of offenses (drug offenses, 90%; property offenses, 73%; and public-order offenses, 72%). Defendants with a drug offense as the most serious offense received prison terms with an average 97 months, compared to 44 months for property offenders. Prison terms for public-order offenses (including racketeering/extortion) had an average of 70 months.

Source: BJS, Money Laundering Offenders, 1994-2001, NCJ 199574, June 2003.

Federal drug offenders sentenced during 1986 could expect to serve approximately 58% of the prison sentence imposed. The remaining portion of the sentence was served on parole, provided the offender did not violate any conditions of release. Under the Sentencing Reform Act, defendants are required to serve at least 87% of the prison sentence imposed.

Source: BJS, Time Served in Prison by Federal Offenders, 1986-97, NCJ 171682, June 1999.

State

In 2004 an estimated --

  • 282,590 adults were arrested for drug trafficking
  • 201,760 persons were convicted of felony drug trafficking
  • 139,210 drug traffickers were sentenced to incarceration
  • 78,690 drug traffickers were sentenced to state prison (or 28 for every 100 drug trafficking arrests).
Of persons convicted of drug trafficking in state courts in 2004 --
  • 83% were males
  • 43% were between ages 20 and 29
  • 51% were white
  • 47% were black.

In 2004, drug offenders comprised about a third (34%) of all persons convicted of a felony in state courts. Drug traffickers accounted for 19% of all convicted felons; drug possessors also accounted for 15% of all convicted felons.

  • Ninety-six percent of drug trafficking convictions in 2004 resulted from guilty pleas; 2% resulted from jury trials; and 2% from bench trials.
  • Sixty-nine percent of persons convicted of drug trafficking in 2004 were sentenced to some kind of incarceration: 39% to state prison and 30% to local jail.
  • The average prison sentence for persons convicted of drug trafficking was 5 years, of which the estimated time to be served was 2 years and 4 months.

    Source: BJS, State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons, 2004, Statistical Tables, NCJ 217995, July 2007.
Felony convictions and sentences in State courts relative to the number of arrests, 2004

  For 100 arrests
 
Offense Felony conviction Incarcerations Prison sentences


Murder* 68 63 60
Robbery 46 40 33
Aggravated assault 25 18 11
Burglary 44 33 22
Motor vehicle theft 16 13 6
Drug trafficking 71 49 28
       
*Includes nonnegligent manslaughter.
 
Source: BJS, State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons, 2004, Statistical Tables, NCJ 217995, July 2007.

In 2004 of persons convicted of drug possession, 35% were sentenced to prison, 29% to jail, and 31% to probation. The average prison sentence was 3 years, of which the estimated time to be served was 16 months.

Mean state prison sentence and estimated time to be served in prison, by offenses, 2004

Most serious conviction offense Mean state prison sentence Estimated time to be served/a


Murder/b 241 mos. 147 mos.
Sexual assault/c 116   79  
Robbery 100   64  
Aggravated assault 61   42  
Burglary 56   29  
Larceny/d 35   20  
Drug offenses        
  Possession 37   16  
  Trafficking 60   28  
 
a/ Derived by multiplying the percentage of sentence to be served by the mean sentence imposed.
b/ Includes nonnegligent manslaughter.
c/ Includes rape.
d/ Includes motor vehicle theft.

Source: BJS, State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons, 2004, Statistical Tables, NCJ 217995, July 2007.

In 2004, besides being sentenced to incarceration or probation, drug offenders incurred other penalties --

Juveniles

In 2002 juvenile courts in the United States processed an estimated 1,615,400 delinquency cases. Delinquency cases involve juveniles charged with violations of the law that would be crimes if committed by adults. The number of delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts increased 41% since 1985. During this time period, the number of drug law violation cases (193,200) increased 159%.

Fifty-eight percent of the delinquency cases processed in 2002 involved a juvenile younger than age 16 at referral, compared with 60% in 1990. In 2002, juveniles under age 16 were responsible for 41% (76,600) of drug law violation cases.

Source: OJJDP, Delinquency Cases in Juvenile Court, 2002, Fact Sheet, NCJ FS 200602, November 2006.

Between 1985 and 2002, the number of delinquency cases in which adjudicated youth were ordered out of the home to some form of residential placement rose 44%. In 2002, 18% of adjudicated delinquency cases involving drug law violations were ordered to residential placement.

In 2002, 8% (35,100) of delinquency cases involving females were for drug offenses. For males 13% (158,100) were drug offense cases.

Source: OJJDP, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report, NCJ 212906, March 2006.

Drug-related activities of prosecutors' offices

In 2005, 24% of all offices assigned prosecutors to handle community-related activities. Of the offices assigning prosecutors to community-related activities, 37% reported that these prosecutors were located outside of the central prosecutor's offices in places such as the police department or a community-based office. The types of offenses handled most often by prosecutors assigned to community-related activities were drug crime (81%), violent crime (77%), juvenile crime (53%), and property crime (63%). Over three-fourths of the offices that assigned prosecutors to community-related activities indicated that these prosecutors carried a full caseload.

Source: BJS, Prosecutors in State Courts, 2005, NCJ 213799, July 2006.



Back to Top