Drug War Drives Federal Criminal Court Cases, No Let-Up Last Year 3/15/02

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While there are increasing signs that the various states are rethinking the drug war approach to drug policy, the federal drug war juggernaut continues rolling. According to a report released this week by the Administrative Office of the US Courts, the administrative arm of the federal judiciary, drug defendants are by far the largest single category of persons facing criminal trials in the federal courts. Of the 82,000 defendants whose federal criminal cases commenced in the fiscal year ending last September 30, more than 31,000, or 38%, were drug offenders.

The report, "Judicial Business of the United States Courts 2001" (http://www.uscourts.gov/judbus2001/contents.html), notes that new federal criminal cases in the last fiscal year remaining almost unchanged from the year before -- a decline of 37 cases -- but that drug case filings had increased by 5% over the previous year. A review of selected categories of federal criminal defendants in the last fiscal year included the following:

Gambling: 14
Burglary: 76
Civil rights violations: 127
Bribery: 160
Kidnapping: 189
Auto theft: 306
Homicide: 419
National defense violations: 490
Sex offenses: 1,010
Embezzlement: 1,284
Robbery: 1,613
Forgery: 1,818
Larceny and theft: 3,867
Weapons and firearms: 6,223
Fraud: 10,532
Immigration violations: 12,086
Drug offenses: 31,493
Clearly, federal drug law enforcement dominates national-level law enforcement. Drug offenders constituted two and one-half times the number of defendants in the next largest category, immigration offenses, and five times the number of defendants charged with federal firearms violations. And the number of drug defendants absolutely dwarfed the number of people accused of crimes traditionally considered to be the bailiwick of federal law enforcement: kidnapping, bank robbery, forgery (counterfeiting) and embezzlement. The number of drug defendants is more than ten times the number of white collar crime defendants (3,102 for forgery and embezzlement combined).

When many people think of federal law enforcement, they conjure up images of G-Men chasing down John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, but the reality is far different. Bank robbers and kidnappers accounted for only 1,755 of the federal criminal defendants last fiscal year. For every classic "gangster" the feds dragged into court, almost 20 drug defendants were prosecuted.

The Administrative Office also noted that in FY 2001, more than 90% of drug defendants either pled guilty or were convicted. Of the more than 28,000 federal drug cases ended in the last fiscal year, only 2,423 of them ended in acquittals.

Also, the report noted, some 44,000 thousand drug law violators were under federal supervision on September 30, the vast bulk of them in federal prisons. Drug law violators make up more than 42% of the 104,000 persons under federal control.

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Issue #228, 3/15/02 Editorial: What Is It About Opium? | DRCNet Launching John W. Perry Scholarship Fund for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions at NYC Event on March 26 | Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full | DOJ Study Takes Ominous Look at Drug and Drug Policy Web Sites | Britain Continues Brisk March to Drug Reform | Drug War Drives Federal Criminal Court Cases, No Let-Up Last Year | Sentencing Reform Passes in Washington State, Governor Will Sign Bill | Danish Politicians Seek Cannabis Crackdown in Christiania | Canadian Doctors Call for Marijuana Decriminalization, Treating Addiction as Medical Problem | US Drug Warriors Lose Again at UN | Government-Commissioned Study of White House Anti-Drug Ad Campaign Says $1.50 Billion Program Fails to Reduce Teen Use | Resources: New York Magazine, UN on Afghani Opium, US on Colombian Coca | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia | The Reformer's Calendar

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