National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Examining Prosecutorial Decision-Making Across Federal District Courts, 2000-2009 [UNITED STATES] (ICPSR 34513)

Principal Investigator(s): Johnson, Brian, University of Maryland

Summary:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

This study utilized data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on federal criminal case processing to study jurisdictional variations in prosecutorial decision-making outcomes. It linked information across multiple federal agencies in order to track individual offenders across the various stages of the federal justice system. Specifically, it combined arrest information from the United States Marshall's Service with charging information from the Executive and Administrative Offices of the United States Attorney and with sentencing information from the United States Sentencing Commission. These individual data were subsequently augmented with additional information on federal courts to examine contextual variations in charging decisions across federal jurisdictions.

There are three data files. Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data) contains 88 variables and 284,869 cases. Dataset 2 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data) contains 717 variables and 256,598 cases. Dataset 3 (United States District Court Characteristics Data) contains 6 variables and 89 cases.

Only Dataset 3 is being released as part of the available study materials. Datasets 1 and 2 can be re-created using the syntax files which are included in the study materials.

Access Notes

  • These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

Dataset(s)

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Study Description

Citation

Johnson, Brian. Examining Prosecutorial Decision-Making Across Federal District Courts, 2000-2009 [UNITED STATES]. ICPSR34513-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2016-09-22. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34513.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34513.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2010-IJ-CX-0012)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    administration, arrest records, arrests, court cases, criminal law, defendants, district courts, federal courts, federal offenses, federal prisoners, judicial decisions, legal systems, offenders, offenses, prosecution, sentencing guidelines, trial courts

Smallest Geographic Unit:    Federal District Courts

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 2000--2009

Date of Collection:   

  • 2010-09--2012-12

Unit of Observation:    Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUMS) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data): Cases, Dataset 2 (United States District Court Characteristics Data): Cases, Dataset 3 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data): Federal Court District

Universe:   

Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data): Federal offenders in the custody of the United States Marshals Service from 2003-2005 and Defendants in federal criminal cases filed in United States District Court from 2000-2009

Dataset 2 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data): Defendants in federal criminal cases filed in United States District Court from 2003-2006 and Defendants sentenced pursuant to provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1984 and reported to the United States Sentencing Commission from 2000-2009

Dataset 3 (United States District Court Characteristics Data): United States District Courts

Data Type(s):    administrative records data, aggregate data

Data Collection Notes:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

Only Dataset 3 is being released as part of the available study materials. Datasets 1 and 2 can be re-created using the syntax files which are included in the study materials.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   

The goal of this study was to investigate prosecutorial discretion in the federal justice system by analyzing the correlates and consequences of charging decisions across U.S. District Courts.

Study Design:   

The study used data from the cohorts of federal defendants arrested and prosecuted in federal court from the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Program (FJSRP). It began by linking a cohort of federal bookings and arrests from the 2003-2005 United States Marshall's Service (USMS) data to the Executive Office of United States Courts (EOUSC) records from 2000-2009. It then separately analyzed the cohort of defendants charged in District Court from the 2003-2006 Administrative Office of United States Courts (AOUSC) data linked to the (United States Sentencing Commission Data) USSC data from 2000-2009. The datasets were linked together using dyadic linking files, which are data files created by researchers at the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that consist of unique identifiers that tie offenders in one dataset to offenders in a dataset from an adjacent stage of federal case processing. In addition to the FJSRP data, additional data were collected on the social, political and demographic contexts of United States District Courts.

The various data sources used in the study are briefly reviewed as follows:

United States Marshall's Service (USMS)

Data on federal arrests and bookings came from the USMS. Offenders arrested and booked for violations of federal law were transferred to the custody of the USMS for processing, transportation, and detention. Their Prisoner Tracking System (PTS) collected basic data for all offenders under their custody, which include demographic characteristics, offense data, and information about the arresting agency. The data provided unique information on the categorization of the offense at initial arrest but they lacked information on offender ethnicity. Both citizenship and race of the offender were included in the data, however. The USMS data were therefore useful for identifying certain basic offender characteristics and also for examining potential differences in case processing across different federal law enforcement agencies.

Executive Office of United States Courts (EOUSC)

The EOUSC is an administrative office that provides executive assistance and supervision to all United States Attorneys' offices, coordinating services such as information technology, legal training and support staff. Data from the EOUSC came from the National LIONS System files, which contain information on the investigation and prosecution of suspects in federal criminal matters received and terminated during the study period. These data included suspects in criminal matters as well as criminal cases, which means they included cases handled by United States District Magistrates as well as those filed in District Court. These data were constructed from the Executive Office's Central System file and accounted for approximately 95 percent of all prosecutions handled by the Department of Justice. Unique information was available in the EOUSC data regarding such things as stated reasons for case declinations but these data did not contain demographic information for individual offenders nor did they provide detailed records regarding changes in charges from case filing to termination.

Administrative Office of United States Courts (AOUSC)

The AOUSC data contain information about the criminal proceedings against defendants whose cases were filed and terminated in United States District Court during the study period. The data came from the AOUSC's Criminal Master Files and include data for each defendant in each case filed and concluded. Included in the records were data from court proceedings that incorporate offense codes for up to five offenses charged at the time of filing and at termination. Charges at filing may differ from termination due to plea bargaining or the actions of the judge or jury. In cases with multiple charges, the most serious charge was determined by a hierarchy of offenses based on statutory maximum penalties associated with each charge. These data provided detailed information regarding the number, severity and type of charges brought in each case, but they lacked demographic information for individual defendants.

United States Sentencing Data (USSC)

Data on criminal sentences were obtained from the USSC, an independent administrative agency that develops and monitors sentencing policy in the federal system. These data contained detailed records of criminal defendants sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines during the study period. The data came from the USSC Office of Policy Analysis (OPA) Standardized Research Data File, which included variables from the Monitoring Department's database. Sentencing records for convicted offenders were furnished to the USSC by United States district courts and United States magistrates. These data are unusually detailed, including information from the Judgment and Conviction order submitted by the court as well as from the Presentencing Report and the Statement of Reasons summarizing the sentencing hearing. Detailed offense level, guidelines calculation, and offender demographic information were included in the USSC data; however, they did not contain any information on the charging processes and outcomes that precede sentencing.

Linking Files

These files included unique identifiers that track federal offenders across federal agencies - they are agency-based dyadic files, designed to link adjacent stages of federal case processing. The system allows researchers to track individual defendant-cases through sequential stages of criminal case processing in the federal justice system.

Court Context Data

The project augmented the individual offender data with aggregate data on the social environments of federal courts. These district-level data were then merged with the individual offender data to examine variations in case processing outcomes across federal court contexts. Data on federal court contexts came from a variety of sources, including Fedstats, the United States Census, and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). These measures are designed to capture the structural context of federal courts, their organizational environments, and their surrounding community characteristics as elaborate in greater detail below.

Sample:   

Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data) was drawn from the United States Marshall's Service Prisoner Tracking System and the National LIONS System files.

Dataset 2 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data) was drawn from the AOUSC's Criminal Master Files and the USSC Office of Policy Analysis Standardized Research Data File.

Dataset 3 (United States District Court Characteristics Data) came from a variety of sources, including Fedstats, the United States Census, and the Uniform Crime Reports.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Mode of Data Collection:    record abstracts

Data Source:

Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data):

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Arrests and Bookings for Federal Offenses, 2003 [United States] (ICPSR 24164)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Arrests and Bookings for Federal Offenses, 2004 [United States] (ICPSR 24181)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Arrests and Bookings for Federal Offenses, 2005 [United States] (ICPSR 24199)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2000 [United States] (ICPSR 24101)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2001 [United States] (ICPSR 24120)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2002 [United States] (ICPSR 24139)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2003 [United States] (ICPSR 24158)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2004 [United States] (ICPSR 24175)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2005 [United States] (ICPSR 24193)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2006 [United States] (ICPSR 24210)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2007 [United States] (ICPSR 24225)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2008 [United States] (ICPSR 29424)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Suspects in Federal Criminal Matters Concluded, 2009 (ICPSR 30790)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2000 [United States] (ICPSR 24103)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2001 [United States] (ICPSR 24122)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2002 [United States] (ICPSR 24141)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2003 [United States] (ICPSR 24160)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2004 [United States] (ICPSR 24177)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2005 [United States] (ICPSR 24195)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2006 [United States] (ICPSR 24212)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2007 [United States] (ICPSR 24227)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2008 [United States] (ICPSR 29433)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases -- Terminated, 2009 (ICPSR 30792)

Dataset 2 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data):

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2000 [United States] (ICPSR 24096)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2001 [United States] (ICPSR 24115)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2002 [United States] (ICPSR 24134)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2003 [United States] (ICPSR 24153)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2004 [United States] (ICPSR 24170)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2005 [United States] (ICPSR 24187)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2006 [United States] (ICPSR 24205)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2007 [United States] (ICPSR 24222)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2008 [United States] (ICPSR 29242)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants in Federal Criminal Cases in District Court -- Terminated, 2009 (ICPSR 30784)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2000 [United States] (ICPSR 24108)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2001 [United States] (ICPSR 24127)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2002 [United States] (ICPSR 24146)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2003 [United States] (ICPSR 24165)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2004 [United States] (ICPSR 24182)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2005 [United States] (ICPSR 24200)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2006 [United States] (ICPSR 24217)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2007 [United States] (ICPSR 24232)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2008 [United States] (ICPSR 29381)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2009 (ICPSR 30795)

Federal Justice Statistics Program: Paired-Agency Linked Files, 2013 (ICPSR 30701)

Dataset 3 (United States District Court Characteristics Data): Fedstats, the United States Census, and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)

Description of Variables:   

Dataset 1 (Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) Data, 88 variables, n = 284,869) collected basic data for all offenders in custody, which includes demographic characteristics, offense data, and information about the arresting agency. It also contains information on the investigation and prosecution of suspects in federal criminal matters received and terminated during the study period.

Dataset 2 (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Data, 717 variables, n = 256,598) collected information about the criminal proceedings against defendants whose cases were filed and terminated in United States District Court during the study period. Included in the records were data from court proceedings that incorporated offense codes for up to five offenses charged at the time of filing and at termination. The data file also collected records of criminal defendants sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines during the study period, including information from the Judgment and Conviction order submitted by the court as well as from the Presentencing Report and the Statement of Reasons summarizing the sentencing hearing. Detailed offense level, guidelines calculation, and offender demographic information are also included.

Dataset 3 (United States District Court Characteristics Data, 6 variables, n = 89) collected information on United States District Court characteristics, including district, number of Assistant United States District Attorneys, crime rate, percent of the resident population in each federal district identified as Black or African American, a standardized socioeconomic disadvantage scale, and caseload pressure.

Response Rates:    Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:    none

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:   2016-09-22

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