Appendix A

Appendix A

Descriptions of Datafiles, Variables, and Footnotes Introduction


Federal courts are required to forward to the Commission sentencing information on all defendants sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (SRA), except in cases that solely involve petty offenses. Standard information on each case is computerized for analysis using data from case files received.

Tables in this report use the Commission’s datafile, USSCFY02, which includes information on the 64,366 defendants sentenced under the SRA during fiscal year 2002 (October 1, 2001, through September 30, 2002), for whom data were received as of April 28, 2004. Given the nature of the datafile and reporting requirements, the following are not included: cases initiated but for which no convictions were obtained, defendants convicted for whom no sentences were yet issued, and defendants sentenced but for whom no data were submitted to the Commission.

Because the Commission collects information only on cases sentenced under the guidelines, information on cases sentenced under prior law (preguidelines) during FY2002 is not available in this dataset. When cases are sentenced under both prior law and the guidelines, only the guideline relevant information is coded in the dataset.


The following section describes the variables used in this report.

The Age of the defendant on the day of sentencing is calculated using the defendant’s date of birth as reported in the Presentence Report and the date of sentencing as reported in the Judgment of Conviction order.

Appeals data are derived from analyses of opinions and orders from the courts of appeals. For purposes of the appeals data, an appeals case is one in which a federal court of appeals has issued an opinion or order. Opinions and orders submitted by the courts are collected and coded. All appeals cases are coded for identifying data, such as parties, disposition, date, and circuit. In cases in which the appellant is appealing a sentencing issue, the sentencing issue is coded. Conviction issues are not coded.

Average Length of Imprisonment
Using sentencing information obtained from the Judgment of Conviction order, Average Length of Imprisonment is reported as the mean and median terms of imprisonment (not including any months of alternative confinement as defined in §5C1.1) ordered for cases committed to the Bureau of Prisons. Cases that receive no term of imprisonment are not included in the average. Cases for which a term of imprisonment is ordered but the length is indeterminable also are excluded. In most cases for which the exact term is unknown, the Judgment of Conviction order merely specifies a sentence of time served. Prior to fiscal year 1993, the Commission defined life sentences as 360 months. However, to reflect life expectancy of federal criminal defendants more precisely and to provide more accurate length of imprisonment information, life sentences are now defined as 470 months.

Chapter Two Guideline Applied
Chapter Two Guideline Applied represents the offense specific guideline applied from that chapter. For cases in which a cross reference is used, the guideline that most fully explains the sentence is shown. The guideline applied is the last guideline referenced, and may be equivalent to either the guideline referenced by statute or the cross-referenced guideline.

Information on judicial Circuit is generated by computer using the location of the judicial district in which the defendant was sentenced.

Citizenship Status
Information on the Citizenship Status of defendants is obtained from the Presentence Report. Defendants are categorized as one of the following: “U.S. citizen,” “resident alien,” “illegal alien,” and “non-U.S. citizen, alien status unknown.” The latter three categories are collapsed into the category of “non-U.S. citizen.”

Country of Citizenship
Information on the Country of Citizenship for non-U.S. citizen defendants is obtained from the Presentence Report and includes the most frequently occurring countries of origin for non-U.S. citizens. Countries appearing less than 50 times are collapsed into the “other” category.

Criminal History Category
Criminal History Category is derived from the Report on the Sentencing Hearing provided by the sentencing court. Tables involving the Report on the Sentencing Hearing are based on the cases for which the Commission has received such documents.

Criminal history category is taken from the Presentence Report when the Report on the Sentencing Hearing is not available. While the court may disagree with Presentence Report information, the criminal history category is the same in more than 95 percent of cases for which both documents were received.

Degree of Departures
Degree of Departure is based on the difference between the length of imprisonment (not including any months of alternative confinement as defined in §5C1.1) and the endpoint of the applicable guideline range. Information on Degree of Departure is calculated based on the extent of departure from the guideline minimum for downward departure and substantial assistance cases and is measured from the guideline maximum for upward departure cases. Life sentences, sentences of probation, and cases where the guideline minimum is zero months are all excluded from all degree of departure calculations due to the logical difficulty in calculating a departure from these values.

Information on Departures is obtained primarily from the Report on the Sentencing Hearing. A case is determined to involve no departure if the sentence imposed is within the guideline range established by the court. If the sentence falls outside this range, the case is coded as a departure, and the applicable reasons given by the court are noted.

For cases in which no Report on the Sentencing Hearing is provided or the information contained in it is insufficient, the sentence from the Judgment of Conviction order is compared to the guideline range recommended in the Presentence Report. If the sentence imposed falls within the recommended range, the case is coded as within the guideline range. However, if the sentence falls outside the guideline range recommended by the probation officer, the case is not coded as a departure. Because the court may have changed the PSR findings, departure status is coded as missing departure status. Additionally, cases in which no guideline sentencing range was established (e.g., no analogous guideline offenses) are included in the missing departure category.

Information on the judicial District in which sentencing occurred is obtained from the Judgment of Conviction order.

Document Submission Rates
Three documents are represented in Table 1: Judgment of Conviction order (J&C), Presentence Report (PSR), and Report on the Sentencing Hearing. The J&C and PSR are generally submitted in a standardized format. PSRs waived by the court are indicated in a separate column. Standardized forms for the Report on the Sentencing Hearing are most frequently submitted; however, transcripts or partial transcripts from the sentencing hearing are also included as Report on the Sentencing Hearing Received.

Drug Amount
In a drug case, the amount of the controlled substance is obtained from the Judgment of Conviction order or the Presentence Report and included in the USSCFY02 datafile. It is used to apply the base offense level from USSG §2D1.1. Table 42 shows the number of cases, mean drug weight, and median drug weight for cases involving specific drug types that were sentenced under USSG §2D1.1 and received one of four relevant base offense levels.

Drug Offense Guideline
Drug Offense Guideline information is obtained from the Presentence Report and is based on the guidelines in USSG Chapter Two, Part D. The six guidelines featured in the tables (§2D1.1, §2D1.2, §2D1.5, §2D1.6, §2D1.8, and §2D2.1) represent the vast majority of drug cases.

Drug Type
Information on Drug Type is obtained from the Judgment of Conviction order or the Presentence Report. It is recorded only if at least one of the statutes of conviction recorded by the Commission is a title 21 U.S. Code offense or a non-title 21 offense when the underlying conduct involves a controlled substance. Information about type of drug in the text and tables is derived from the primary drug type (i.e., the type that produces the highest base offense level). The category Marijuana includes Hashish and Hashish oil. The category Methamphetamine includes pure (actual) methamphetamine, “ICE”, methamphetamine mixture, and methamphetamine precursors. (“ICE” has been included in the methamphetamine category since FY1996). All drug types not listed separately in this report are collapsed into the “other” drug category.

Information on education of the defendant is obtained from the Presentence Report and is collapsed into general categories. Technical, military, and vocational training as well as course work at community colleges are included in the Some College category. A general equivalency degree (GED) is included in the High School Graduate category.