Drug Trafficking

Population Snapshot

"Cover of the Quick Facts handout"

Of the 64,124 cases reported to the Commission in fiscal year 2023, 19,066 involved drugs.[1] Of those, 18,939 cases involved drug trafficking.[2] Seven drug types account for 98.1% of drug trafficking offenses. Quick Facts provide an overview of these offenses, though this information may vary depending on the type of drug involved in the offense. [3], [4]

Click the cover for the PDF handout or learn more below. 

Individual and Offense Characteristics


  • 83.6% of individuals sentenced for drug trafficking were men.
  • 43.5% were Hispanic, 27.6% were Black, 25.8% were White, and 3.0% were Other races. 
  • Their average age was 38 years. 
  • 81.9% were United States citizens.
  • 42.5% had little or no prior criminal history (Criminal History Category I); 5.6% were career offenders.
  • Sentences were increased for:
    • possessing a weapon (28.8%);
    • a leadership or supervisory role in the offense (6.3%).
  • Sentences were decreased for:
    • minor or minimal participation in the offense (18.3%);
    • meeting the safety valve criteria in the sentencing guidelines (33.2%).
  • The top five districts for drug trafficking offenses were: 
    • Southern District of California (1,457);
    • Western District of Texas (920);
    • Southern District of Texas (884);
    • Northern District of Texas (722);
    • District of Puerto Rico (573).






  • The average sentence for drug trafficking was 82 months but varied by drug type.
  • 97.2% were sentenced to prison.
  • 62.1% were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty; 53.5% were relieved of that penalty.









[1] Drug offenses include cases where individuals were sentenced under USSG Chapter Two, Part D (Drugs).

[2] Individuals sentenced for drug trafficking were sentenced under USSG §§2D1.1 (Drug Trafficking), 2D1.2 (Protected Locations), 2D1.5 (Continuing Criminal Enterprise), 2D1.6 (Use of a Communication Facility), 2D1.8 (Rent/Manage Drug Establishment), 2D1.10 (Endangering Human Life), or 2D1.14 (Narco-Terrorism).

[3] Cases with incomplete sentencing information were excluded from the analysis.

[4] The 'Fentanyl' category includes both Fentanyl (N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] Propanamide) and Fentanyl Analogue.

SOURCE: United States Sentencing Commission, FY 2019 through FY 2023 Datafiles, USSCFY19-USSCFY23.