How Often Do Federal Criminal Defendants Get Convicted?

Dec 10 2020

The U.S. Attorney’s Office generally must first present a case in front of a grand jury and secure an indictment before moving forward in filing federal criminal charges against a defendant. One of the reasons they have this system in place is so prosecutors can feel confident knowing that they have a fighting chance of convincing a jury panel of your guilt at trial. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that federal conviction rates are high in light of this.

How high is the federal conviction rate?

A recent report published by the Pew Research Center highlights how federal officials have a 99.6% conviction rate. That same data shows that 8% of all cases that the U.S. Attorney’s Office files end up dismissed. Only 2% of them make it to trial. Defendants plead guilty in 90% of all cases. A staggering 320 cases out of nearly 80,000 annual ones end up with an acquittal.

Some federal criminal cases make it to trial more than others. The Pew Research Center report details how only 7% of violent crime ones make it that far. That percentage is much smaller when it comes to property, drug and immigration offense cases. Only 4%, 2% and 1% of the defendants in those cases decide to take their case to trial.

Federal criminal convictions are on the rise

The amount of federal trials has significantly decreased during the past two decades. Pew Research Center’s data shows an average of 4,710 federal cases went to trial in 1998. They’re now 60% less at 1,879. There’s been a significant uptick in plea deals over the past two decades due to this. They increased from 82% to 90%.

The odds are stacked against you if you’re facing federal criminal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has seemingly endless resources at their disposal to ensure that they secure a conviction in your New York case. A federal offenses attorney will want to speak with you and review the discovery prosecutors compiled before providing you with guidance to best deal with the serious criminal charges you’re facing here in Manhattan.

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