10 Things to Know About Federal Criminal Sentences

The U.S. Sentencing Commission collects information on every federal felony and class A misdemeanor sentence.  The Commission’s 2021 Annual Report looked at over 57,000 reported cases, and these are some of the highlights:

  1. The number of federal offenders has decreased in recent years from 76,538 in 2019 to 57,287 in 2021.  
  2. Over 91% of federal sentences included some prison time, about 6% included only probation, and less than 1% included only a fine.   
  3. The average sentence imposed was 4 years long.  Murder, sexual abuse, and kidnapping crimes had the longest average sentences, while drug possession, antitrust, and environmental crimes had the lowest average sentences.  
  4. About 43% of sentences were within the federal sentencing guidelines range.  
  5. The most common sentences were for drug crimes, immigration crimes, firearms crimes, and fraud/theft/embezzlement crimes.  The least common sentences were for antitrust crimes, food and drug crimes, and manslaughter.  
  6. About 87% of federal offenders were male and 13% were female.
  7. Only about 12% of federal offenders were 51 years of age or older.  
  8. College graduates represent just under 6% of federal offenders, while more than 40% did not graduate high school.   
  9. Judges in the D.C. Circuit sentenced the fewest federal offenders, while Judges in the Fifth Circuit sentenced the most.  
  10. There were only 90 organizations sentenced in 2021 (including public and private companies) and the vast majority had less than 50 employees.  

The entire 2021 Annual Report and Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics is available here.

Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.

Author(s)
Kyle Crawford

Kyle A. Crawford
Associate
Email | +1 202.778.1825

As the regulatory and business environments in which our clients operate grow increasingly complex, we identify and offer perspectives on significant legal developments affecting businesses, organizations, and individuals. Each post aims to address timely issues and trends by evaluating impactful decisions, sharing observations of key enforcement changes, or distilling best practices drawn from experience. InsightZS also features personal interest pieces about the impact of our legal work in our communities and about associate life at Zuckerman Spaeder.

Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.

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