Federal Drug Prosecutions Down from 2011, but No One Knows Why - Sparrow Law Firm

An independent research organization, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, reports that the first 10 months of 2012 showed a marked decline in the number of new federal drug crime prosecutions. The data goes through July 31, 2012; the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

According to TRAC, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration referred a total of 11,782 cases to the federal courts between Oct. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012. If the trend continues, the year would mark a 14.4 percent decline from fiscal year 2011. The difference is even greater if we go farther back: a 16.3 percent drop from five years ago and a 14.8 percent drop from a decade ago.

Without further analysis, though, TRAC offers no explanation. The DEA’s budget was actually higher in 2012, and the number of agents has remained stable. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers cannot account for the change, either.

Local-level prosecutors — not from North Carolina — say the decline could be the result of a shift in focus at the DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies. More effort is being put into prosecuting violent crime, one prosecutor said, while drug crimes are more likely to go the rehabilitation route than the jail time route.

Geographical data may or may not bear that out. Prosecutions seem to be more heavily concentrated in U.S. border states, with states that border Canada edging out states from the southern part of the country.

One thing is clear, though: Even with the numbers trending down, the DEA and the FBI are still prosecuting individuals who run afoul of federal law. And, of course, North Carolina law enforcement agencies are not relaxing their efforts to arrest, charge and prosecute drug dealers and traffickers.

Source: The National Law Journal, “Drug prosecutions expected to drop by 14 percent,” Leigh Jones, Oct. 2, 2012

Our firm works with people who have been accused of crimes like the ones discussed in this post. You can learn more about our practice by visiting the North Carolina federal criminal defense page.