Drug Offenses Made Up Nearly One-Third Of All Cases In FY 2022: USSC Report

March 24, 2023

By a Biometrica staffer

Drug related offenses accounted for almost one-third of all cases reported in fiscal year 2022, the United States Sentencing Commission (called “the Commission” hereon) said in its annual report. That makes drug offenses the single largest category of offenses reported. Only two years ago, in comparison, immigration related offenses made up the single largest group (in FY 2020).

Image Source: U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2022 Datafile, USSCFY22
Note: This figure includes the 64,142 cases reported to the Commission. The Drugs category includes trafficking and simple possession. Descriptions of variables used in this figure are provided in Appendix A of the Commission’s annual report.

The courts also reported 64,142 felony and Class A misdemeanor cases to the Commission in FY 2022, it added in the report. That represents an increase of 6,855 cases from FY 2021.

In FY 2022, 47.4% of all offenders were Hispanic, 25.2% were Black, 23% were White, and 4.4% were of another race. This is largely unchanged from previous years. Non-U.S. citizens accounted for 31.2% of all offenders, a decrease of 2.4 percentage
points from the prior year, the report adds.

When it comes to the sentences, 67.8% of all offenders received sentences under the Guidelines Manual, “in that the sentence was within the applicable guideline range or was outside the applicable guideline range and the court cited a departure reason from the Guidelines Manual,” the report said. About 41.9% of all sentences were within the guidance range, compared with 42.8% in FY 2021.

Of the total cases reported to the Commission in FY 2022, 89% of them received a prison only sentence, 3.1% were given prison and alternatives, 1.6% were given probation and alternatives, 5.8% were given probation only, and 0.5% were given a fine only.

Fentanyl Cases On The Rise

Within drug related offenses, drug trafficking made up for a majority of the cases reported at 19,938. The number of drug trafficking cases reported to the Commission increased by 2,330 in FY 2022. In contrast, the number of drug possession related cases were marginally lower at 296 in FY 2022 versus 309 in the previous year.

What is worrisome, though, is that the number of cases involving fentanyl “increased markedly” over the last year. Fentanyl cases were the third most common among all drug offenses reported to the Commission. Authorities have, in the recent past, termed fentanyl the “deadliest drug threat” the country has ever faced.

Just this Tuesday, March 21, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned the American public of a sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning.

Around 66% of drug poisoning deaths between August 2021 and August 2022 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the DEA said in its public safety alert citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Image Source: U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2022 Datafile, USSCFY22

Among drug offenses, those involving methamphetamine were most common and made up for 48.5% of all drug cases reported to the Commission in FY 2022.

In FY 2022, 64.7% of drug offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, compared to 67.7% of drug offenders in FY 2021, the report says.

The average length of imprisonment in methamphetamine cases was 94 months, an increase of four months from FY 2021, the Commission added. However, the average sentence varied across the other major drug types. It was:

  • 70 months in crack cocaine cases
  • 68 months in powder cocaine cases
  • 65 months in fentanyl cases
  • 66 months in heroin cases
  • 33 months in marijuana cases

For more information and to access the full annual report from the United States Sentencing Commission, click here.