U. S. Sentencing Commissions
|The data in this report pertain to cases sentenced both before and after enactment of the PROTECT Act, Pub. L. 108-21. Seven months of the fiscal year were prior to the effective date of the Act (October 1, 2002–April 30, 2003), and five months were after (May 1, 2003–September 30, 2003).|
This is the eighth edition of the United States Sentencing Commission’s Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics. This Sourcebook contains descriptive statistics on the application of the federal sentencing guidelines and provides selected district, circuit, and national sentencing data. The volume covers fiscal year 2003 (October 1, 2002, through September 30, 2003, hereinafter “2003”). This Sourcebook together with the 2003 Annual Report constitutes the annual report referenced in 28 U.S.C. § 997, as well as the analysis, recommendations, and accounting to Congress referenced in 28 U.S.C. § 994(w)(3).
The Commission collects and analyzes data on guideline sentences to support its varied activities. As authorized by Congress, the Commission’s numerous research responsibilities include (1) the establishment of a research and development program to serve as a clearinghouse and information center for the collection, preparation, and dissemination of information on federal sentencing practices; (2) the publication of data concerning the sentencing process; (3) the systematic collection and dissemination of information concerning sentences actually imposed and the relationship of such sentences to the factors set forth in section 3553(a) of title 18, United States Code; and (4) the systematic collection and dissemination of information regarding the effectiveness of sentences imposed (28 U.S.C. § 995(a)(12) and (14) through (16) inclusive).
The Sentencing Commission maintains a comprehensive, computerized data collection system which forms the basis for its clearinghouse of federal sentencing information and which, in large part, drives the agency’s research mission.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994(w) (as amended by section 401(h) of the PROTECT Act, which became effective April 30, 2003), each chief judge of a district is required to ensure that within 30 days after entry of judgment in a criminal case, the sentencing court submits a report of sentence to the Commission that includes: (1) the judgment and commitment order; (2) the statement of reasons (including the reasons for any departures); (3) any plea agreement; (4) the indictment or other charging document; (5) the presentence report; and (6) any other information the Commission needs.
Data from these documents are extracted and coded for input into various databases. It should be noted that data collection is a dynamic rather than a static process. When research questions arise, the Commission either analyzes existing data or adds information to its monitoring system.
The Commission’s computerized datasets, without individual identifiers, are available via tape and the Internet through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan (ICPSR) and the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center.1
For each case in its Offender Dataset, the Commission routinely collects case identifiers, sentencing data, demographic variables, statutory information, the complete range of court guideline decisions, and departure information. Throughout 2003, the Commission continued to add data elements to its extensive computerized datafile on defendants sentenced under the guidelines.
The Commission’s 2003 USSC Offender Dataset contains documentation on 70,258 cases sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act between October 1, 2002, and September 30, 2003. A "case" is defined as one sentencing event for an individual defendant. While the 2003 reporting year includes cases sentenced between October 1, 2002, and September 30, 2003, it is important to note that the data collected and analyzed in the 2003 Annual Report and 2003 Sourcebook of Sentencing Statistics reflect only cases reported to the Commission (i.e., guidelines cases for which the courts forwarded appropriate documentation to the Commission). Consequently, if a court fails to forward documentation on a case to the Commission, the agency will not have a record of that particular sentencing. This reliance on physical receipt of court records by the Commission allows for three potential areas of guideline case underreporting: (1) court failure to submit case documentation;
(2) a misunderstanding of the types of cases to be submitted; and (3) cases lost in transit between a court and the Commission.
New Tables for 2003
For the first time, document submission rates for charging documents (indictment/information) and plea agreements have been added. See Table 1A. This table has been added based upon the provisions of Section 401(h) of the PROTECT Act, effective April 30, 2003, requiring the timely submission of these documents. Table 1 continues to reflect the submission rates for the judgment and commitment order, presentence report, and statement of reasons.
Additional tables have also been added relating to departures below the guideline range. Table 26A breaks out departures below the guideline range into Substantial Assistance Departures, Government Initiated Departures, and Other Downward Departures. Table 25 lists the reasons included for Government Initiated Departures and Table 25A lists the reasons for Other Departures.
The Organizational Dataset captures information on organizations sentenced under Chapter Eight of the guidelines. The data collected describe organizational structure, size, and economic viability; offense of conviction; mode of adjudication; sanctions imposed; and application of the sentencing guidelines. The Commission received information on 200 organizations that were sentenced under Chapter Eight of the sentencing guidelines in 2003. See Table 51.
The Appeals Dataset tracks appellate review of sentencing decisions. Information captured in this module includes district, circuit, dates of appeal and opinion, legal issues, and the court’s disposition. In addition to its standard data collection, the Commission often codes additional variables to study various discrete issues (e.g., drug offenses, criminal history). The Commission also tracks final opinions and orders, both published and unpublished, in federal criminal appeals. In 2003, the Commission gathered information on 6,564 appellate court cases of which 1,663 were "conviction only" cases. See Figure M.
The appeals data system uses both the "group" and the "defendant" units of analysis. Each group comprises individual records representing all codefendants participating in a consolidated appeal. Each defendant’s record comprises the sentencing-related issues corresponding to that particular defendant. These records, linked together by a unique Commission-assigned appeals identification number, constitute a single group.
New Table for 2003
An additional appeals table has also been added (Table 56A) which breaks down sentencing appeals by circuit and district for cases that have been appealed by the government. Table 56, which previously broke down all sentencing appeals, now presents appeals by the defendant.