BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Federal Justice Statistics, 2005 - Statistical Tables

Methodology

Data sources | Reporting period |  Table construction and interpretation | Unit of analysis | Interpretation | Offense classification

Data sources

The source of data for all web tables is the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP) database. The FJSP is constructed from source files provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, in addition to providing data describing defendants in cases processed by the Federal judiciary, provides data describing defendants processed by the Federal pretrial services agencies and the Federal probation and supervision services. Federal law prohibits the use of these files for any purposes other than research or statistics. A description of the source agency data files is provided.


Reporting period

Wherever possible, matters or cases have been selected according to the event which occurred during fiscal year 2005 (October 1, 2004, through September 30, 2005). Files which are organized by their source agencies according to fiscal year nonetheless include some pertinent records in later years' files. For example, tabulations of suspects in matters concluded during fiscal year 2005 in this Compendium have been assembled from source files containing records of 2005 matters concluded which were entered into the data system during fiscal years 2004 or 2005.

The availability of particular items of information is affected by the data source. For example, data on prosecutors' decisions prior to court filing are provided for cases investigated by U.S. attorneys but not for those handled by other litigating divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice. Criminal Division cases enter the data base once they are filed in U.S. district court, however.


Table construction and interpretation

The tables presented report events that occurred during the Federal fiscal year — October 1, 2004 - September 30, 2005. Generally the tables include both individual and organizational defendants. Organizational defendants are not included in tables describing defendants sentenced to incarceration and offenders under post-conviction supervision. Juvenile offenders who are charged as adults are included in the reported statistics.


Unit of analysis

The unit of analysis in sections 1 through 6 is a combination of a person (or corporation) and a matter or case. For example, if a single person is involved in three different criminal cases during the time period specified in the table, he or she is counted three times in the tabulation. Similarly, if a single criminal case involves a corporate defendant and four individual defendants, it counts five times in the tabulation. In section 7 the unit of analysis for probation, parole, or other supervised release is a person entering custody or supervision, a person leaving custody or supervision, or a person in custody or supervision at year-end. For example, a person who terminates probation twice in the indicated time period, such as with a violation and again after reinstatement, is counted as two terminations of probation.


Interpretation

The tables are constructed to permit the user to make valid comparisons of numbers within each table and to compare percentage rates across tables. The total numbers of subjects in the tables that are based on records linked between two files (for example, the demographic tables in sections 4 and 5) are generally less than the total number of records in either source file. Accordingly, comparisons of absolute numbers across two or more tables in this volume and other data sources are not necessarily valid.


Offense classifications

Procedure

The offense classification procedure used in this Compendium is based on the classification system followed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Specific offenses are combined to form the BJS categories shown in the Compendium tables.


Offense categories for Federal arrestees are based on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) offense classifications, which are converted into U.S. Marshals’ four-digit offense codes, which, in turn, are aggregated into the offense categories shown in the tables.  These categories are similar, but may not be directly comparable, to the BJS offense categories used in other tables for 2005. For data from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, which include United States Code citations but do not include the Administrative Office offense classifications, United States Code titles and sections are translated into the Administrative Office classification system and then aggregated into the offense categories used in the tables.


Felony/misdemeanor distinctions

Felony and misdemeanor distinctions are provided where possible. Felony offenses are those with a maximum penalty of  more than 1 year in prison.  Misdemeanor offenses are those with a maximum penalty of 1 year or less.  Felonies and misdemeanors are further classified using the maximum term of imprisonment authorized.  Section 3559, U.S. Code, Title 18 classifies offenses according to the following schedule:


Felonies

Class A felony — life imprisonment, or if the maximum penalty is death.
Class B felony — 25 years or more.
Class C felony  — less than 25 years but more than 10 years.
Class D felony  — less than 10 years but more than 5 years.
Class E felony —  less than 5 years but more than 1 year.

Misdemeanors
Class A misdemeanor — 1 year or less but more than 1 month.
Class B misdemeanor — 6 months or less but more than 30 days.
Class C misdemeanor — 30 days or less but more than 5 days.
Infraction — 5 days or less, or if no imprisonment is authorized.

In these tables felony and misdemeanor distinctions are provided where the data permit these distinctions. Arrest and prosecution tables do not use this distinction because many suspects cannot be so classified at the arrest and investigation stages in the criminal justice process. This distinction is not made for pretrial release/detention because the Pretrial Services Agency no longer gathers this information. Adjudication and sentencing tables distinguish between felony and misdemeanor offenses, as do supervision tables.


Most serious offense selection

Where more than one offense is charged or adjudicated, the most serious offense (the one that may or did result in the most severe sentence) is used to classify offenses. The offense description may change as the criminal justice process proceeds. Tables indicate whether investigated, charged or adjudicated offenses are used. In the prosecution tables the most serious offense is based on the criminal lead charge as determined by the assistant U.S. attorney responsible for the criminal proceeding. In pretrial tables the major charged offense is based upon the Administrative Office’s offense severity classification system, as determined by the pretrial officer responsible for the case. To select this offense, the officer ranks offenses according to severity based on maximum imprisonment, type of crime, and maximum fines. In adjudication tables the most serious offense charged is the one that has the most severe potential sentence. For sentencing tables conviction offenses are based on statutory maximum penalties. In the appeals tables offenses are classified by the offense of conviction. In the supervision tables, the most serious offense of conviction is either the one having the longest sentence imposed or, if equal sentences were imposed or there was no imprisonment, the offense carrying the highest severity code as determined by the Administrative Office’s offense severity code ranking.


Offense categories

For offense categories in all text tables, the following conditions apply:
Murder” includes nonnegligent manslaughter.
“Sexual abuse” includes only violent sex offenses.
Fraud” excludes tax fraud.
Larceny” excludes transportation of stolen property.
Other property felonies” excludes fraudulent property offenses and includes destruction of property and trespass.
Tax law violations” includes tax fraud.
Obscene material” denotes the mail or transport thereof.
Wildlife” includes offenses previously included in the “Migratory birds” category.
“Environmental” includes some offenses previously included in the “Agriculture” and “Other Regulatory” categories.
All other offenses” includes felonies with unknown or unclassifiable offense type.
Misdemeanors” includes misdemeanors, petty offenses, and unknown offense levels.
Drug possession” also includes other drug misdemeanors.

Data used in these statistical tables were also used in the BJS publication

 



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