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Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Appendix 12

Federal Justice Statistics

Methodology and definitions of terms

Note: The following was excerpted from U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, 1995, NCJ-164259 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998), pp. 88-103. Non-substantive editorial adaptations have been made.


The data are from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Federal Justice Statistics database. The database is constructed from source files provided by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO), the United States Sentencing Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The AO also maintains data collected by the Pretrial Services Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and data on the work of the U.S. Probation Service in the Federal Probation Supervision Information System.

Some records in the Federal Justice Statistics database are matched according to a statistically weighted combination of names, other personal identifiers, dates of court appearances, types of offenses, and other relevant information contained in the files. Using the matched data files, it is possible to combine information about two or more stages of the processing of a criminal matter or case, from the prosecutor's decision of whether to file a criminal case, through adjudication, and, if the defendant is convicted, through prison and/or supervised release. Unless otherwise noted, data tables describe events occurring during fiscal year 1995 (Oct. 1, 1994 through Sept. 30, 1995).

The unit of analysis is a combination of a person (or corporation) and a matter or case. For example, if a single person is involved in three different criminal cases during the time period specified in the table, he or she is counted three times in the tabulation. Similarly, if a single criminal case involves a corporate defendant and four individual defendants, it is counted five times in the tabulation.

The unit of analysis for incarceration, probation, parole, or other supervised release is a person entering custody or supervision, or a person leaving custody or supervision. For example, a person convicted in two concurrent cases and committed once to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the indicated time period is counted as one admission to a term of incarceration. A person who terminates probation twice in the indicated time period, such as with a violation and again after reinstatement, is counted as two terminations of probation.

The offense classifications in the tables are based on the classification system used by the AO. Specific offenses in the AO classification are combined to form the BJS categories in the tables. These categories are designed to be as consistent as possible with BJS publications on State criminal justice systems. Offense categories for tables focusing on prisoners are based on combinations of offense designations used by the Bureau of Prisons. They are similar to the BJS categories but may not be directly comparable.

Where more than one offense is charged or adjudicated, the most serious offense, the one that may or did result in the most severe sentence, is used in the classification. Prisoners are classified according to the offense that bears the longest single incarceration sentence. The offense description may change as a case goes through the criminal justice process. Tables indicate whether charged or adjudicated offenses are used.

The availability of particular items of information is affected by the data source. Data on prosecutors' decisions prior to court filing are provided for cases investigated by U.S. attorneys, but not for those handled by other litigating divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice. Criminal Division cases enter the data base once they are filed in U.S. District Court, however. Many items of social and demographic information come from presentence investigation records, supervision records, or sentencing records and are available only for arrested defendants who were convicted and/or began serving a sentence involving supervised release. (This particularly affects sex, race, ethnicity, and prior record information.)

Time served in prison is the number of months from the prisoner's arrival into jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons until first release from prison, plus any jail time served and credited. The calculation is the same as that currently used by the Bureau of Prisons. Because other publications may include different groups of prisoners, calculate time served differently, or use a different offense classification, these data may differ from estimates of time served in previous publications by the Bureau of Prisons or in publications based on other data sources.

These data are designed to permit the user to make valid comparisons of numbers within each table and to compare percentage rates across tables. The total numbers of subjects that are based on records linked between two files are generally less than the total number of records in either source file. Accordingly, comparisons of absolute numbers across two or more tables, or between these data and other data sources, are not necessarily valid.

In addition, readers should note that offender characteristics and classifications of lengths of prior sentences of incarceration differ from the 1993 and prior years' Federal justice compendia. Therefore, comparisons of these elements with the 1993 compendium or compendia prior to 1993 should not be attempted.

Definitions of terms

Agriculture--violations of the Federal statutes on agriculture and conservation, for example, violations of the Agricultural Acts, Insecticide Act, and the Packers and Stockyards Act; also violation of laws concerning plant quarantine and the handling of animals pertaining to research (title 7 U.S.C. except sections on food stamps).

Antitrust--violation of Federal antitrust statutes, which aim to protect trade and commerce from unlawful restraints, price fixing, monopolies, and discrimination in pricing or in furnishing services or facilities.

Arson--willfully or maliciously setting, or attempting to set, fire to any property within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Assault--intentionally inflicting, attempting or threatening to inflict bodily injury to anyone within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or to any Government official, foreign official, official guest, internationally protected person, or any officer or employee of the United States designated in section 18 U.S.C. 1114; also certain violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Bail--the sum of money promised as a condition of release, to be paid if a released defendant defaults.

Bribery--offering or promising anything of value with intent to unlawfully influence a public official, bank employee, officer or employee of the U.S. Government, witness, or any common carrier as well as soliciting or accepting such an offer. Soliciting or receiving anything of value in consideration of aiding a person to obtain employment in the U.S. Government. Receiving or soliciting any remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or any kind in return for purchasing, ordering, leasing, or recommending to purchase any good, service, or facility.

Burglary--breaking and entering into another's property with intent to steal within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; also including breaking and entering into any official bank, credit union, savings and loan institution, post office, vessel or steamboat assigned to the use of mail service, or personal property of the United States or breaking the seal or lock of any carrier facility containing interstate or foreign shipments of freight or express.

Collateral bond--an agreement made by a defendant as a condition of his or her pretrial release that requires the defendant to post property valued at the full bail amount as an assurance of his or her intention to appear at trial.

Conspiracy--an agreement by two or more persons to commit or to effect the commission of an unlawful act or to use unlawful means to accomplish an act that is not in itself unlawful; also any overt act in furtherance of the agreement. A person charged with conspiracy is classified under the substantive offense alleged.

Counterfeiting--falsely making, forging, or altering any obligation or security of the United States, foreign obligation or security, coin or bar stamped at any mint in the United States, money order issued by the Postal Service, domestic or foreign stamp, or seal of any department or agency of the United States. Passing, selling, attempting to pass or sell, or bringing into the United States any of the above falsely made articles. Making, selling, or possessing any plates or stones used for printing counterfeit obligations or securities of the United States, foreign obligations or securities, Government transportation requests, or postal stamps; or knowingly and intentionally trafficking in falsified labels affixed to phono records, motion pictures, or audio visual works.

Deposit bond--an agreement made by a defendant as a condition of his or her release that requires the defendant to post a fraction of the bail before he or she is released.

Detention--the legally authorized confinement of persons after arrest, whether before or during prosecution. Only those persons held 2 or more days are classified as detained.

Drug offenses--manufacture, import, export, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance (or counterfeit substance), or the possession of a controlled substance (or counterfeit substance) with intent to manufacture, import, export, distribute, or dispense. Also using any communication facilities which causes or facilitates a felony under title 21. Also furnishing of fraudulent or false information concerning prescriptions as well as any other unspecified drug-related offense.

Embezzlement--fraudulently appropriating property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted or into whose hands it has lawfully come where offense is committed by bank officers or employees; officers or employees of the Postal Service; officers of lending, credit, or insurance institutions; any officer or employee of a corporation or association engaged in commerce as a common carrier; court officers of the U.S. courts; or officers or employees of the United States. Stealing, selling, conveying, or disposing of any money, property, records, or thing of value to the United States or any department thereof.

Escape--departing or attempting to depart from the custody of a correctional institution; a judicial, correctional, or law enforcement officer; or a hospital where one is committed for drug abuse and drug dependency problems. Knowingly advising, aiding, assisting, or procuring the escape or attempted escape of any person from a correctional facility, an officer, or the above-mentioned hospital as well as concealing an escapee. Providing or attempting to provide to an inmate in prison a prohibited object or making, possessing, obtaining, or attempting to make or obtain a prohibited object. Instigating, assisting, attempting to cause, or causing any mutiny or riot at any Federal penal, detention, or correctional facility or conveying into any of these institutions any dangerous instrumentalities.

Explosives--violations of Federal law involving importation, manufacture, distribution, and storage of explosive material. Includes unlawful receipt, possession or transportation of explosives without a license, where prohibited by law, or using explosives during commission of a felony. Also includes violations relating to dealing in stolen explosives, using mail or other forms of communication to threaten an individual with explosives, and possessing explosive materials at an airport.

Failure to appear--willful absence from any court appointment.

Felony--a criminal offense punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year.

Financial conditions--monetary conditions upon which release of a defendant before trial is contingent. Includes deposit bond, surety bond, and collateral bond (see individual definitions).

Food and drug--violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, such as regulations for clean and sanitary movement of animals.

Forgery--falsely and with intent to defraud, making, counterfeiting, altering, or possessing with intent to pass off as genuine any U.S. Postal Service money order; postmarking stamp or impression; obligation or security of the United States; foreign obligation, security, or bank note; contractors' bond, bid, or public record; seal of a court or any department or agency of the U.S. Government; the signature of a judge or court officer; ships' papers; documents on entry of vessels; deed; power of attorney; customs matters; coin or bar; and so forth. Also making, possessing, selling, or printing plates or stones for counterfeiting obligations or securities.

Fraud--unlawfully depriving a person of his or her property or legal rights through intentional misrepresentation of fact or deceit other than forgery or counterfeiting. Includes violations of statutes pertaining to lending and credit institutions, the Postal Service, interstate wire, radio, television, computer, creditcard, veterans benefits, allotments, bankruptcy, marketing agreements, commodity credit, the Securities and Exchange Commission, railroad retirement, unemployment, Social Security, false personation, citizenship, passports, conspiracy, and claims and statements, excluding tax fraud. The category excludes fraud involving tax violations that are shown in a separate category under "Public-order, other offenses."

Gambling--transporting, manufacturing, selling, possessing, or using any gambling device in the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States or within Indian country or the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Also transporting gambling devices in the jurisdiction of the United States, (except under authority of the Federal Trade Commission or any State that has a law providing for their exemption from these provisions), transmitting wagering information in interstate or foreign commerce, interstate transporting of wagering paraphernalia, importing or transporting lottery tickets, or mailing lottery tickets or related matter.

Hispanic--ethnic category based on classification by reporting agency. Hispanic persons may be of any race.

Immigration--offenses involving illegal entrance into the United States, illegally reentering after being deported, willfully failing to deport when so ordered, or willfully remaining beyond days allowed on conditional permit. Falsely representing oneself to be a citizen of the United States. Also bringing in or harboring any aliens not duly admitted by an immigration officer.

Incarceration--any sentence of confinement, including prison, jail, and other residential placements.

Kidnaping--unlawfully seizing any person, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, for ransom or reward, except in the case of a minor by a parent. Also receiving, possessing, or disposing of any money or other property that has been delivered as ransom or reward in connection with a kidnaping as well as conspiring to kidnap. This offense includes kidnaping or attempting to kidnap any Government official, the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President, any foreign official, any official guest, or any internationally protected person.

Larceny--taking and carrying away with intent to steal any personal property of another. Stealing, possessing, converting to one's own use, or illegally selling or disposing of anything of value to the United States or any of its departments or agencies. Stealing anything of value from a bank, the Postal Service, or any interstate or Foreign shipments by carrier. Receiving or possessing stolen property or pirate property. Stealing or obtaining by fraud any funds, assets, or property that belongs to or is entrusted to the custody of an Indian tribal organization. This offense category excludes the transportation of stolen property.

Liquor--violations of Internal Revenue Service laws on liquor as well as violations of liquor laws not cited under these laws, such as dispensing or unlawfully possessing intoxicants in Indian country; transporting intoxicating liquors into any State, territory, district, or possession where sale is prohibited; shipping packages containing unmarked and unlabeled intoxicants; shipping liquor by C.O.D.; knowingly delivering a liquor shipment to someone other than to whom it has been consigned; and violating in any way the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

Mailing or transportation of obscene materials--knowingly using the mail for mailing obscene or crime-inciting matter. Also transporting for sale or distribution, importing, or transporting any obscene matter in interstate or foreign commerce.

Matters concluded--matters about which a final decision has been reached by a U.S. attorney. Includes matters filed as cases, matters declined after investigation, matters referred for disposition by U.S. magistrates, and matters otherwise terminated without reaching court.

Migratory birds--taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds, or any part, nest, or egg thereof, in violation of Federal regulations or the transportation laws of the State, territory, or district from which the bird was taken. Misuse or nonuse of a migratory-bird hunting and conservation stamp.

Misdemeanor--a criminal offense punishable by a jail term not exceeding 1 year and any offenses specifically defined as a misdemeanor by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for the purposes of data collection. (This category includes offenses previously called minor offenses that were reclassified under the Federal Magistrates Act of 1979.)

Mixed sentence--a sentence requiring the convicted offender to serve a term of incarceration, followed by a term of probation. Unless otherwise noted, offenders receiving mixed sentences are included in both incarceration and probation categories.

Most serious offense--the offense with the greatest potential penalty. For Federal prisoners, the offense with the longest term of incarceration actually imposed.

Motor vehicle theft--interstate or foreign transporting, receiving, concealing, storing, bartering, selling, or disposing of any stolen motor vehicle or aircraft.

Murder--the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied. Nonnegligent manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice; includes committing or attempting to commit murder (first or second degree) or voluntary manslaughter within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Killing or attempting to kill any Government official, the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President, any officers and employees of the United States, any foreign officials, any official guests, or any internationally protected persons. As applied to the owner or charterer of any steamboat or vessel, knowingly and willfully causing or allowing fraud, neglect, misconduct, or violation of any law resulting in loss of life.

National defense--violations of the national defense laws of the Military Selective Service Acts, the Defense Production Act of 1950, the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 (which includes prices, rents, and wages), the Subversive Activities Control Act, alien registration, treason (including espionage, sabotage, sedition, and the Smith Act of 1940), also violations relating to energy facilities, curfew and restricted areas, exportation of war materials, trading with an enemy, illegal use of uniform, and any other violations of the Federal statutes concerning national defense.

Negligent manslaughter--causing the death of another, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States by wanton or reckless disregard for human life. Also negligent manslaughter of any Government official, the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President, any officers and employees of the United States, any foreign officials, and official guests, or any internationally protected persons. This offense category also includes misconduct, negligence, or inattention to duties by ship officers on a steamboat or vessel resulting in death to any person.

Nolo contendere--defendant's plea in a criminal case indicating that he or she will not contest charges, but not admitting or denying guilt.

Offense--violation of U.S. criminal law. Where more than one offense is charged, the offense with the greatest potential penalty is reported.

Other property offenses--offenses that involve the destruction of property moving in interstate or foreign commerce in the possession of a common or contract carrier. The malicious destruction of Government property, or injury to U.S. postal property such as mailboxes or mailbags. Trespassing on timber and Government lands is also included in this category of offenses.

Other public-order offenses--violations of laws pertaining to bigamy; disorderly conduct on the U.S. Capitol grounds; civil disorder; and travel to incite riot. Included in "public-order, non-regulatory offenses."

Other regulatory offenses--violations of civil rights, election laws, the Communication Act of 1934 (including wire tapping and wire interception), customs laws (except narcotics and liquor), interstate commerce (Hot Oil Act, transportation or importation of prison-made goods, and the railroad and transportation acts), maritime and shipping laws, laws regarding stowaways, the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, U.S. postal laws (excluding injury to postal property), intimidation of witness laws, aircraft regulations, and any other regulatory offenses not listed above.

Other sex offenses--transporting, coercing, or enticing any individual (including minors) to go from one place to another in interstate or foreign commerce, in the District of Columbia, or in any territory or possession of the United States with the intent and purpose to engage in prostitution, or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.

Perjury--making any false material declarations under oath in any proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury of the United States. Includes knowingly or willfully giving false evidence or swearing to false statements under oath or by any means procuring or instigating any person to commit perjury. This offense also includes any officers and employees of the Government listed under 13 U.S.C. 21-25 who willfully or knowingly furnish or cause to be furnished any false information or statement.

Personal recognizance--pretrial release condition in which the defendant promises to appear at trial and no financial conditions are required to be met.

Possession--acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation or fraud, attempting or conspiring to possess, or simple possession of a controlled substance in schedules I-V (as defined by 21 U.S.C. 812). Also possession of a controlled substance in schedule I or II or a narcotic drug in schedule III or IV on board a vessel of the United States or vessels within custom waters of the United States, or by any citizen of the United States on board a vessel. Possessing any punch, die, plate, stone, or any other thing designed to reproduce the label upon any drug or container is an offense under this category. Distributing a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration is treated as simple possession and, therefore, is included in this offense category.

Pretrial release--the release of a defendant from custody, for all or part of the time before or during prosecution. The defendant may be released either on personal recognizance, unsecured bond or on financial conditions. The category includes defendants released within 2 days after arrest and defendants who were initially detained but subsequently released after raising bail or having release conditions changed at a subsequent hearing.

Property offenses, fraudulent--property offenses involving the elements of deceit or intentional misrepresentation. Specifically includes embezzlement, fraud (excluding tax fraud), forgery, and counterfeiting.

Property offenses, non-fraudulent-- offenses against property: burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, transportation of stolen property, and other property offenses (destruction of property and trespassing). These offenses are termed "non-fraudulent" only for the purpose of distinguishing them from the category "property offenses, fraudulent," above.

Public-order, non-regulatory offenses--offenses concerning weapons; immigration; tax law violations (tax fraud); bribery; perjury; national defense; escape; racketeering and extortion; gambling; liquor; mailing or transporting of obscene materials; traffic; migratory birds; conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and jurisdictional offenses; and "other public-order offenses." These offenses are termed "non-regulatory" only for the purpose of distinguishing them from the category "public-order, regulatory offenses," below.

Public-order, regulatory offenses--violations of regulatory laws and regulations in agriculture, antitrust, labor law, food and drug, motor carrier, and other regulatory offenses that are not specifically listed in the category "public-order, non-regulatory offenses" above.

Racketeering and extortion-- racketeering is demanding, soliciting, or receiving anything of value from the owner, proprietor or other person having a financial interest in a business, by means of a threat or promise, either expressed or implied. Extortion is the obtaining of money or property from another, without his consent, induced by the wrongful use of force or fear. This offense code covers using interstate or foreign commerce or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce to aid racketeering enterprises such as arson, bribery, gambling, liquor, narcotics, prostitution, and extortionate credit transations; obtaining property or money from another, with his or her consent induced by actual or threatened force; violence, blackmail, or committing unlawful interference with employment or business; transmitting by interstate commerce or through the mail any threat to injure the property, the person, or the reputation of the addressee or of another; or kidnaping any person with intent to extort.

Rape--rape, assault with intent to commit rape, and carnal knowledge of a female under 16 who is not one's wife, within the territorial and special maritime jurisdictions of the United States. Also includes cases of sexual abuse, including abuse of a minor and in Federal prisons.

Robbery--taking anything of value from the person or presence of another by force or by intimidation, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Also robbery of bank property, U.S. postal property, or personal property of the United States. Also assaulting or putting the life of any person in jeopardy by the use of a dangerous weapon while committing or attempting to commit such robbery.

Sentence--sanction imposed on a convicted offender. For sentences to incarceration, the maximum time the offender may be held in custody is reported.

Supervised release--under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, a form of post-imprisonment supervision to be imposed by the court as a part of the sentence of imprisonment at the time of initial sentencing. Unlike parole, a term of supervised release does not replace a portion of the sentence of imprisonment, but rather is an order of supervision in addition to any term of imprisonment imposed by the court.

Surety bond--an agreement by the defendant as a condition of his or her release that requires a third party (usually a bail bondsman) to promise to pay the full bail amount in the event that the defendant fails to appear.

Suspect--a person who is under investigation or interrogation as a likely perpetrator of a specific criminal offense.

Tax law violations--tax fraud offenses such as income tax fraud; evading or defeating tax; willful failure to file; fraudulently withholding an exemption certificate or failing to supply information; counterfeiting any stamps with intent to defraud the collection or payment of tax; willful failure to collect or pay tax; putting fraudulent or false statements on tax returns; failure to obey summons to produce any papers concerning taxes; preparers of returns disclosing or using any information for any purpose other than to assist in preparing returns; failing to furnish receipts for employees of tax withheld; failing to furnish information relating to certain trusts, annuity, and bond purchase plans; and not obtaining a license for a business that makes a profit from foreign items. Also included in this offense category are violations of excise and wagering tax laws and other laws from the Internal Revenue Service code.

Technical violation--failure to comply with any of the conditions of pretrial release, probation, or parole, excluding alleged new criminal activity. May result in revocation of release status. Examples of conditions that may be imposed and then violated include remaining within a specified jurisdiction, or appearing at specified intervals for drug tests.

Threats against the President--knowingly and willfully depositing in the mail, at any post office, or by any letter carrier a letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of or to inflict bodily harm upon the President, Vice President, or any other officer in order of succession to the Presidency. Knowingly and willfully making such threats in any way to the above-named people.

Traffic offenses--driving while intoxicated or any moving or parking violations on Federal lands.

Trafficking--knowingly and intentionally importing or exporting any controlled substance in schedule I, II, III, IV, or V (as defined by 21 U.S.C. 812). Manufacturing, distributing, selling, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, or sell a controlled substance or a counterfeit substance. Exporting any controlled substance in schedules I-V. Manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance in schedule I or II for purposes of unlawful importation. Making or distributing any punch, die, plate, stone, or any other thing designed to reproduce the label upon any drug or container or removing or obliterating the label or symbol of any drug or container. Knowingly opening, maintaining, or managing any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.

Transportation of stolen property--transporting, selling, or receiving stolen goods, stolen securities, stolen moneys, stolen cattle, fraudulent State tax stamps, or articles used in counterfeiting if the above articles or goods involve or constitute interstate or foreign commerce.

U.S. attorneys--all United States attorneys. Prosecutorial data come from the Central system and Central Charge Files of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

Unsecured bond--an agreement by the defendant as a condition of his or her release in which the defendant agrees to pay full bond amount in the event of nonappearance at trial, but is not required to post security as a condition to release.

Violation (of pretrial release, probation, or parole)--allegation of either a new crime or a technical violation while on pretrial release, probation, or parole.

Violent offenses--threatening, attempting, or actually using physical force against a person. Includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, negligent manslaughter, assault, robbery, rape, other sex offenses (some of which may be nonviolent), kidnaping, and threats against the President. (See specific offenses.)

Weapons--violations of any of the provisions of sections 922 and 923 of title 18 concerning the manufacturing, importing, possessing, receiving, and licensing of firearms and ammunition. Manufacturing, selling, possessing, or transporting (within any territory or possession of the United States, within Indian country, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States) any switchblade knife; or making, receiving, possessing, or transporting a firearm not registered in the National Firearms Registration Transfer Record. Engaging in importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms if not registered with the secretary in the Internal Revenue Service District in which the business is conducted or not having paid a special occupational tax. In addition, this code covers cases where in a crime of violence or drug trafficking enhanced punishment is handed down when committed with a deadly weapon.

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics