42 percent of felony convictions result in a sentence to prison. 33 percent go to jail


From a December, 2013 Department of Justice Report examining criminal felony prosecutions in 75 large urban counties in the United States

Criminal Histories:

About 3 in 4 defendants had been arrested at least once prior to the arrest on the current felony charge.

Nearly all of the defendants with an arrest record had multiple prior arrest charges.

About half (51%) of all defendants had five or more prior arrest charges, and more than a third (36%) had 10 or more.

About 3 in 5 defendants had been arrested previously on a felony charge.

Drug (69%) and public-order (66%) defendants were more likely to have a prior felony arrest than those charged with a property (59%) or violent (55%) offense .

Between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of defendants with at least one prior arrest increased from 68% to 75%.

The proportion of defendants with multiple prior arrests rose from 59% to 68% during this period.

The percentage of defendants who had 10 or more prior arrests increased from an estimated 22% in 1990 to 36% in 2009.

The percentage of defendants with a felony arrest record increased from about 55% prior to 1996 to more than 60% since 2002.

The percentage with multiple prior felony arrests rose from 43% to 52% during the same period.

The percentage with 10 or more prior felony arrests nearly doubled during this time, from 9% in 1990 to 17% in 2009.

About 3 in 5 defendants had at least one prior conviction.

The percentage of defendants with one or more prior convictions was highest among those charged with a driving-related offense (76%) and lowest among those charged with fraud (43%) .

An estimated 14% of all defendants had 10 or more prior convictions, including 17% of those charged with larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, or drug trafficking.

An estimated 43% of defendants had at least one prior felony conviction.

About half of those charged with a drug offense (50%), a weapons offense (49%), or motor vehicle theft (48%) had a felony conviction record.

Fraud defendants (30%) were the least likely to have a prior felony conviction .

Overall, 30% of defendants had multiple prior felony convictions, and 11% had five or more.

An estimated 17% of defendants charged with motor vehicle theft and 15% of drug defendants had at least five prior felony convictions.


Overall, incarceration sentences were almost evenly divided between prison (36%) and jail (37%) in 2009.

Felony convictions were more likely to result in a sentence to prison (42%) than jail (33%).

Nearly all incarceration sentences for misdemeanor convictions were to jail (53%) rather than prison (3%).

The mean length of prison sentences received for felony convictions in 2009 was 52 months and the median length was 30 months. These averages are about the same as in 2004 and 2006, but lower than those recorded in years prior to 1998.

In 2009, the median prison sentence for violent offenses (48 months) was twice as long as for nonviolent offenses (24 months) (table 25).

Source: Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties; http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc09.pdf



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