View Full Version : Federal Conviction Rate

04-21-2007, 12:30 PM
I have a question for any legal insiders or those that are in a position to know accurate percentages.... I was told that the Conviction rate of the Federal Government is 98% thus there was no sense in fighting my case in court, according to my Public Pretender. Even guys I did time with agreed, many people with money failed to win their cases, I did time with Judges, a Lousiana Mayor convicted of Federal charges but suspected of Killing his legal partner, Several of the Florida Starke Prison guards convicted of killing an Inmate sent to The Federal System to prevent Inmate reprisal in the state. One of the Dallas Cowboys trainers whom was in for writing illegal scripts for controlled substances, a Lawyer who also owned thirty two businesses that the IRS convicted of tax evasion, whom not only spent over 80 thousand in legal fees but lost most of his businesses.
So,... is it true that the Federal Government is just that good? Or is it that the jurors see the Federal Government as The top of the line and if you are in Federal Court, You MUST be guilty??
I am curious, I realize that even John Gotti won some of his earlier cases but he still wound up being convicted and then died in prison. I also met men who stated they had state drug charges and when the state case was won, the Federal Government picked them up and charged them again for the same crime, and it was legal because it was Federal and not the state thus it was not considered double jepoardy, also that when the case for some of the men was won in the Federal court, they were rearrested under new charges un related to the original and almost every one was for conspiracy charges with witnesses they had never even met showing up to accuse them of things they never heard of, but the words of the stranger coupled with the sworn statement of a Federal Agent placed them in prison for 5 years for one count of conspiracy.

Am I wrong, or is this insane?? Is this even legal??

Any advice or comments would be gladly appreciated.

Thank you.


04-21-2007, 01:34 PM
So,... is it true that the Federal Government is just that good? Or is it that the jurors see the Federal Government as The top of the line and if you are in Federal Court, You MUST be guilty??

I first heard that they had a 95% conviction rate back in 1986, so that number has been around for a long time. I just googled Federal conviction rate and found a lot of different numbers, but it seems to be anywhere from 90% to 98% depending on the offense and district.

As for why, I think it is a number of factors. I believe that the biggest thing is that they frequently don’t bring charges until they have completely built their case. By the time they indict, they definitely have you in the cross hairs so the stats look like they never miss. They have unlimited resources and they spare no expense, unlike the state courts who often don’t fully build their cases because of the their limited resources. Local city police or even state investigators are no match for the FBI, DEA, IRS and other Federal agencies. Again, I think their advantage starts long before the courtroom. Once you are in the indictment stage, I think things are stacked much more heavily against the defendant than they are in state court. The AUSA has a much larger and stronger support staff as well as a smaller case load. Because the fees charged by Federal attorneys tend to be much higher and because of the Feds tendency to seize assets, most Federal defendants end up with a public defender. There are exceptions, but it seems to me that these PD’s have been defeated so many times and are so aware that the odds are bad, they are quick to recommend a plea, driving those stats even higher. Where I am the state PD’s are often young attorneys who want to make a name for themselves as trial attorneys and love the opportunity to try a case. If they do this successfully, they get good experience and then roll out into private practice and make good money. The Federal PD’s tend to stay longer because it is a better job in terms of prestige, pay, benefits, case load etc. If the Feds get a hung jury, they almost always retry the case. I also do think that the majesty of the Federal system does have an impact on your average jury. Because the judges have a life time appointment, they are untouchable. In state court I think the judges are much more concerned about justice because they know that they will be facing another election. I do know that the AUSA position is much more coveted than state PD, so I suppose they have a larger pool of attorneys to hire from. Perhaps I am just bitter, but I am not willing to give the prosecutor too much credit for being "that good". I don't think that if they went to the state prosecutor's office they would carry their 95% conviction record with them. I think from start to finish, the Federal system has an unfair advantage and they don't hesitate to bring out a machine gun to kill a fly. Their convictions don't have to make sense, they just need to keep the percentages sky high. Can you tell I'm resentful? I admit that I am, but I think the Federal system is a disgrace to the advocacy system.

04-21-2007, 05:22 PM
Very good post InHouse!!!

Kay's man 4ever
04-21-2007, 11:55 PM
the Federal government can print its money in the basement.

The state government cannot.

Game, set, match.

Kay's man 4ever

Federal PO
04-22-2007, 08:13 AM
I thikn the guideline structure skews that number as well. if you are talking about all cases, well the vast majority are settled with a plea. If you plea, the guidelines give you credit for that. three levels off works out to around 1/3 off, many times people just simpoly say If I go to trial and lose, my range is 27 to 33 months, with the prosecutor recommending 33 months. if I plea, my range is 18 to 24 months, with a recommendation from the prosecutor of 18 months. I think that difference influences many decisions to plea.

04-22-2007, 12:28 PM
Conviction rate might be less if more people went to trial. The lengthy sentences and people's fear of what might happen means that very few cases go to trial. The U.S. Attorneys offer better deals in cases that they think they might lose at trial and that coerces people into pleading guilty who might have had a shot at trial. So really the numbers mean nothing and each individual just has to decide what's best for them. Z.

04-23-2007, 09:53 PM
Thank you all for your responses. I also wondered why is it that in the state courts, that mitigating factors can have in fluence on a Judges decision, but in Federal Court, there is none, it is simply by the guidelines.
It seems so rigid, that no matter what the circumstances are the consequences are the same for one or all.
Case in point, if two men are arrested for the same crime with the same background, let us say Zero history, first offense and the one man has received one illicit image and the other has received one thousand and one, why is it that both men plead out and they both receive identical sentences?? Why is it that the one man showed a propensity for the illicit images and the other opened an email erroneously??
Or the man who failed to pay taxes for years and the another who one time erred honestly but failed to maintain the proper records to substantiate his finances. Why is it that they both end up with the same sentences??
I am confused? How can mandatory minimums be fair to the masses? It seems like a cookie cutter application of punishment to be applied blindly with out consideration of each individual case. The man who steals for a living is a thief, but the man who stole the food to feed his starving family may be on hard times and trying to provide, but although he commited a theft, does not necessarily make him a thief.
The ability to premake a million sandwiches all on the same bread with the same meat and the same mustard may be cost saving and time saving by doing so in advance on a massive scale. However, not everyone has the same taste and thus does not provide a true service to everyone, only those that fit that need and desire. Not all people are alike, and not every crime is comitted by the same person for the same reason. We are a society of individuals, we each have self defining charecterisitics that make us each unique. To carbon copy each would take away whom we are.
The same applies to minimum guidlines. How can anyone impose sentencing of the same magnitude of two people whom vary so much in severity??? Where, pray tell, is the justice in this? How can you knowingly agree or more so, approve of the idea that a crime has a preset sentence regardless of whom committed it, or why. Regardless of the severity of that crime from one offender to another, let us sleep well knowing we covered the masses with the same blanket and felt justice was served.
When did the Federal Justice system decide the merits of each individual mattered less than the percentage of the masses convicted under the same criteria??
AM I alone in this opinion? Has no one else seen the vast differences in the Justice of the state versus that of the Federal Government?
I am saddened to think that the likes Of Adams, and Franklin, and Lincoln would have agreed to the due process in todays Federal Courts. I would hope that they would not, I am reminded that the early Colonialists fought the status quo of Biritian and fought for the right of each man to be judged by his peers based on his own merit and at no time was there a mention of a cookie cutter guidline to apply to each as if they were the same.
Will this guidline move next to the state? Will it continue for future generations to ask these same questions? I pray not.....


04-23-2007, 09:57 PM

04-24-2007, 03:24 AM's all about money-saving for the Feds. And when they decided on mandatory sentences (I believe), it was our country's way of fighting the war on drugs for one, so they wanted a conviction at all costs. Some of the people behind the walls are actually innocent but knew they had no choice because they could have received more time. Then there are the guilty ones also doing their time and sometimes less than the innocent ones. GO FIGURE! I myself, think the Feds have it wrong and you are caught between a rock and a hard place.
The thing is if it is drugs, for everyone they put "inside", there are 2 or more on the streets to take this person's place. And speaking of drugs, there is more in prison than some people realize.:eek:
JMO only of course!!!

04-24-2007, 04:18 PM
I think you all are forgetting about "piling on of charges". If you go to tiral, you will be convicted of much more than if you plead guilty before trial. They can allege things like "ring leader" "sophisticated means" (email), etc. etc. So that's why most people plead out, and that is a major reason for the high "conviction rate". Also, the government has unlimited resources, and private citizens rarely do.
It's a very tpugh system, and once the feds get you, you are almost surely going to do hard time.

05-05-2007, 03:02 PM
All of these statistics are available by going to the USSC (United States Sentencing Commission) website, I do not have the link, you can google it and look it up. Once there, you can search all sorts of data, it is sorted by type of crime and by district and it will give you the rate of success aka conviction rate the Govenment has achived. The picture is not pretty. For all the excellent points pointed out above, the system is structured for plea's. As plea's count as convictions, well, you get the picture.

05-05-2007, 03:38 PM
yes its crazy that they can use hear say to indict.. My boyfriend and his brothers where charged with conspiracy to distrubute 50 grams of crack.. Here is what gets me.. They have never had a drug charge and they never found any crack on them or in their houses.. All it took was 3 people who where already indicted on federal distrubuting charges to say they bought crack from my boyfriend and his brothers... Basically lawyer told us that those 3 people would testify against them so with that being said they would most likely be found guitly..and if they were found guilty on trial the sentencing would me much harshed than if they plead.. 30 years comapred to the 10 year plea.. I think knowing you will recieve much harsher sentencing is why most people plea and the feds have such a high conviction rate.. cause most of their cases end up in pleas

05-05-2007, 06:13 PM

05-05-2007, 06:57 PM
It surely is unfair, as any criminal attorney will tell you.
First, entrapment is "legal", second, threats to get you to plead out are common and accepted, and third, judges are often appointed from the ranks of prosecutors, so they have the same "guideline" mentality. It's a tough system.
However, we can't look at it and say, "why did so-and-so get away with it." Generally speaking, most people caught in the system did something they should not have done; they were just unfortunate enought to be entrapped, or whatever, their punishment is totally disproportionate to the crime, and it hits innocent family members much worse that the inmate.
Yes. it's a dumb and unfair system.
No, it's not likely to change very soon.

05-06-2007, 06:06 AM
Thanks flgmtech, for giving me this opportunity. Do they have a 98% conviction rate? Slightly better? Slightly worse? Fact is, well, go look at the FBI crime statistic rates for convictions of bank robbers. Go on. You have to crunch the numbers yourself. If I do it, it won't be any fun. No one will believe me anyway.

They have such a high conviction rate because of pleas. That is the only reason. Further, as others have said (thanks for your well thought-out posting Inhousecounsel--very good) the odds are stacked against you, generally they don't make a move until they are sure, they have unlimited resources, and they generally move against the guilty.

At trial they suck.

They win cases they should lose; and lose cases they should win. They are really horrible. Egos, near as I can tell. Don't take my word for it. Go rent Find Me Guilty!. True story. Hasn't been out long. It really wouldn't be a very good movie, except most of the dialogue came from the actual trial transcripts, it was true, and most of you in this forum will enjoy the ending.

I haven't done my homework on all the different cases they have won or lost, but I have followed a number in my district where the judge had such an incestuous relationship with the US Attorney, you could have made a case for them being related. Still lost. Keep in mind that their little high-falootin' conviction rate is underscored by their reversals in the appellate courts. I know two guys personally from my short stint in El Reno that had their convictions overturned by the 10th Circuit. Neither were retried.

Would I rather be tried by a state court or the Feds? If I were innocent, no question. Give me the Feds any day. I will say that with one does depend on the state. Take Georgia for example. County-wise, one of the most corrupt, insidious systems whose judges have no respect for the law, nor the caselaw that precedes their decisions. However, Georgia's appellate courts move fairly quickly, and they deliver some of the most sound legal arguments I've ever had the privilege of reading. Especially the Supreme Court of Georgia. Are they all right? No. Just that I think having read hundreds of decisions written by them, I get to be an expert in some regard.

You go to trial, you takes yer chances.

The primary problem with going to trial is understated by Tipesh who wrote "...judges are appointed from ranks of prosecutors." A finer statement couldn't be made. This is one horribly ugly truth, and one that needs correction. One advantage in the state courts is that judges are elected, that means you can vote them out (if you're allowed to vote). The downside is most people that vote are happy to have a judge that is "tough on crime." In the Fed, judges are appointed for life. This is great if there is a good one appointed...bad news if it's a crap one. The more bad news is most of them are idiots. In my District, we have one named Dale Cook. This guy is the poster child for someone who should resign. He once sat on the 10th Circuit as a "guest" judge, and ruled in a gun possession case quite intelligently. In his own courtroom, some six months later, he ruled against a guy I was helping on the exact set of circumstances he had previously thought should be caselaw!

I pointed this out to the guy's attorney who had completely missed it. He thought it was funny, but didn't quite know how to get it into the appellate brief. I knew. Just say it!



Anyway, thanks to all of you that allow people like me to blow off steam. I really appreciate it. This forum is the best.

05-06-2007, 07:06 AM
You can check the statisitcs yourself at 95.7% of all convictions in 2006 were due to pleas. (Table 21 of final report).