Some Federal Drug Sentences Rose Slightly Last Year

The U.S. Sentencing Commission says in its annual report that more than 44 percent of drug offenders were convicted of crimes carrying a mandatory minimum sentence. Drug cases are the largest single category of federal crimes.

Federal drug sentences remained relatively stable across all drug types in fiscal year 2017. The average length of imprisonment increased slightly in cases involving methamphetamines, from 90 months to 91 months, and in marijuana cases, from 28 months to 29 months, says the United States Sentencing Commission in its annual report for 2017. In fiscal year 2017, 44.2 percent of drug offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty. Drug cases still account accounted for the largest single group of federal criminal cases, comprising 30.8 percent of the total. Cases involving immigration, firearms, and fraud were the next most common types.

Among drug cases, offenses involving methamphetamine were most common, accounting for 34.6 percent of cases. The commission, which advises judges on recommended sentencing lengths for crimes, noted that from Jan.3 until March 21 last year, it lacked four voting members, the minimum number required to propose changes to federal sentencing guidelines to Congress. President Trump recently nominated four new members of the panel. Federal appeals court judge William Pryor  of Alabama is the commission’s acting chair. Trump has nominated him to continue on the panel.