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March 13, 2012

Notable new data on federal criminal caseload in FY11

Via How Appealing, I learned of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts issuing this news release today, which carries the title "Federal District Court Workload Increases in Fiscal Year 2011."  Here are snippets, and I have bolded data suggesting the federal drug war continues to grow in size and significance:

Filings of criminal cases (including transfers) was largely unchanged (up 12 cases to 78,440) in FY 2011, but the number of criminal defendants rose 3 percent to set a new record of 102,931.  Drug offenses continued to be the crimes most commonly prosecuted in the district courts, accounting for 31 percent of all defendant filings.  Twenty-eight percent of all defendant filings were associated with immigration offenses.  The number of defendants accused of immigration offenses declined for the first time since 2006, dropping 3 percent to 28,239.  The number of defendants charged with fraud offenses rose 3 percent to 12,973 and the most notable increase was in defendants charged with attempt and conspiracy to defraud, which grew 34 percent to 2,239.  Growth in filings also occurred for defendants charged with firearms and explosive offenses, sex offenses, property offenses, and general offenses....

The number of persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2011, was 129,780, an increase of 2 percent over the total one year earlier.  Persons serving terms of supervised release at the end of FY 2011, following release from a correctional institution, increased 2 percent over the prior year’s total to reach 105,037, and accounted for 81 percent of all persons under supervision.

Forty-seven percent of persons under post-conviction supervision had been convicted of drug offenses, 22 percent had been convicted of property offenses, and 12 percent had been convicted of firearms offenses. These percentages remained unchanged from 2010. The proportion of post-conviction cases terminated successfully remained unchanged at 71 percent.

Regular readers may recall some recent comments from Justice Scalia complaining about too many routine criminal  matters (particularly drug cases) coming into the federal courts (discussed in posts here and here).  Seems like the data trend reported here concerning the FY 2011 caseload will not warm the Justice's heart.

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March 13, 2012 at 05:47 PM | Permalink


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Where I practice, a lot of § 1326 illegal reentry defendants receive a term of supervised release as part of their sentence. I wonder if they count toward the number of defendants currently under supervision.

If 71 percent of post-conviction cases are terminated successfully, I also wonder if it makes sense to impose as much supervision as the courts typically do. My impression is that the defendants who have trouble on SRT tend to have it early; it's pretty rare, in my experience, to see someone brought in on a petition to revoke for the first time in their third or fourth year of SRT.

Posted by: C.E. | Mar 13, 2012 10:54:12 PM

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