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Drug Offenses Account for 31% of All Federal Crimes

Drug crimes overtook immigration offenses as the most common federal crime in fiscal year 2021 (FY2021).

Drug possession crimes saw a decrease, while drug trafficking cases went up. Overall, there were fewer federal cases.

According to a report released by the United States Sentencing Commission in April 2022, there were 57,377 federal criminal cases in which the offender was sentenced in FY2021. A corporation or other “organizational” offender was charged in 90 of those cases, while the rest were individuals.

Drug Crimes Has the Largest Percentage of Federal Crimes

For the last quarter-century, four types of crimes have comprised the majority of federal felonies and Class A misdemeanors. Most likely, the change in enforcement priorities for immigration resulted in drug crimes overtaking immigration as the No. 1 crime. Immigration was the leading crime for the previous three years. Firearms crimes had the top spot in FY2017.

Federal offenders by type of crime for FY2021 are as follows:

  • Drugs: 31.3%
  • Immigration: 29.6%
  • Firearms: 14.2%
  • Fraud/Theft/Embezzlement: 8%
  • Robbery: 2.3%
  • Child Pornography: 2.1%
  • Sexual Abuse: 1.9%
  • Money Laundering: 1.8%

The catch-all category “other crimes” represented 8.9% of federal crimes.

Total drug cases increased 6.5% over the previous year. A total of 17,917 drug cases were reported to the Sentencing Commission. Almost all of these crimes involved the manufacture, sale, or transportation of a drug. Only 309 cases involved drug possession, continuing a five-year downward trend.

Meth Is Most Common Drug in Federal Cases

Methamphetamine is the most common drug type in federal cases, accounting for 48% of all drug crimes. Meth has been steadily increasing since 2017. Crack cocaine has fallen by 82.2% since FY2008.

The primary drug types in federal drug cases are as follows:

Fentanyl, while ranked fourth, increased more than 45% over the previous year. Heroin and marijuana cases have decreased over the last five years.

Meth Trafficking Received the Steepest Sentences

The average sentence for a federal crime was 48 months. Drug possession sentences were among those receiving the least amount of time behind bars – one month on average. Among federal drug crimes, methamphetamine trafficking had the highest average sentence at 90 months. Trafficking offenses involving marijuana had the least severe sentence, averaging 30 months.

  • Methamphetamine: 90 months
  • Crack Cocaine: 69 months
  • Powder Cocaine: 68 months
  • Heroin: 60 months
  • Fentanyl: 60 months
  • Marijuana: 30 months

Two-thirds of all drug trafficking offenses carried mandatory minimum sentences. Once again, methamphetamine led the way with 80.3% of its cases requiring a mandatory sentence. Only 3.3% of trafficking sentences were enhanced because the offender had previous convictions.

Drug kingpin cases represented nearly 6% of all drug trafficking cases. Their sentences were increased because of their high-profile role as organizers, leaders, managers, or supervisors.

Drug Crimes Varied by Race

The vast majority of federal drug crimes were committed by U.S. citizens (82.7%). Americans had the lion’s share of drug trafficking crimes, nearly 98%.

A racial breakdown shows how drug trafficking varied widely:

  • Hispanics had the most powder cocaine and marijuana drug trafficking offenses.
  • Black offenders had the most crack cocaine trafficking offenses.
  • Methamphetamine trafficking was more commonly found in Hispanic and White offenders.
  • Fentanyl and heroin trafficking were split between Hispanic and Black offenders.

Drug Crimes and Weapons

About one-quarter of all drug cases involved a weapon. Crack cocaine cases were the most likely drug offense to use a weapon (38.8%) while marijuana cases were the least likely (18.7%).

Experience in Defending Federal Drug Crimes

At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, our attorney has more than 25 years of experience in standing up for our clients. He uncovers every detail of your case to craft a reasoned and personalized defense.

Facing federal drug charges in Wisconsin? Contact our office to schedule a consultation. Call (414) 882-8382. We’re available 24/7.