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Felony Sentences in State courts, 1992

State Courts Convicted Almost 900,000 Felons During 1992


ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 5 P.M. EST                            BJS
TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 1995                           202-307-0784


    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- State courts throughout the U.S. convicted
almost 900,000 felons during 1992, the Department of Justice announced
today.  One-third of the convictions were for drug offenses.

    The volume of felony convictions rose by 34 percent from 1988 (the
first comparable study) through 1992, in part because of a 57 percent
jump in aggravated assault convictions and a 53 percent increase in drug
trafficking convictions.  Nonetheless, case processing time was largely
unaffected.  During both years the average time from arrest to sentencing
was approximately seven months.  

    Guilty pleas accounted for 92 percent of the felony convictions in
1992, unchanged from 1988, according to a survey conducted by the
Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. Trials before a judge or a jury
accounted for the remaining 8 percent, which was also unchanged from
1988.  Prison sentences were imposed in 44 percent of the felony
convictions during both years. 

    During 1992, drug trafficking comprised 19 percent of the state court
felony convictions, drug possession 12 percent, violent offenses 18
percent, burglary 13 percent and larceny 13 percent.

    Violent crimes accounted for an estimated 18 percent of the 1992 state
court felony convictions across the country, property crimes for 33
percent and drug offenses for 31 percent as shown in the following table:

   Violent crimes                       18.4%
      Murder and manslaughter     1.4
      Rape                        2.4
      Robbery                     5.8
      Aggravated assault          6.6
      Other violent crimes*       2.2
   Property crimes.                     33.5
      Burglary                    12.9
      Larceny                     13.4
      Fraud and forgery            7.2
   Drug offenses.                       31.3
      Possession                  12.2
      Trafficking.                19.1
   Weapons offenses                      3.0
      Other non-violent crimes**  13. 9

          Total                        100% 
*Other violent crimes include negligent manslaughter, sexual assault and
**Other non-violent crimes include receiving stolen property and

    Of those convicted, during 1992, 52 percent were white, 47 percent
black and 1 percent were of other races.  Four years earlier 57 percent
were white, 41 percent were black and 2 percent were of other races.

    State judges sent 44 percent of the convicted felons to prison, 26
percent to a local jail and 30 percent were given straight probation without
any incarceration time.

    Among those convicted of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, 93
percent were sentenced to prison, 4 percent to a jail term and 3 percent
were given probation only.  State judges and juries imposed capital
punishment on 2 percent of the murderers they convicted.

    Of those convicted of rape, 68 percent were sentenced to a prison
term, 19 percent to jail and 13 percent to probation only.
    Among all felons sentenced to a state prison during 1992, the average
sentence imposed was 6.  years.  The average jail sentence was 7
months.  The average probation sentence was 4 years.  In addition, a fine
was imposed on 18 percent of the convicted felons, restitution on 16
percent, community service on 6 percent and 7 percent were ordered into
some type of treatment program.

    In addition, federal courts convicted about 42,000 people of felonies
during 1992, or 4 percent of the combined state and federal case load.  
Almost nine of 10 federal felony convictions were obtained through guilty
pleas and three out of four of all convictions resulted in incarceration.  In
1992, 44 percent of federal felony convictions were for a drug offense and
7 percent were for violent crimes.  The average sentence to incarceration
was about 5.  years.     

    The survey of state felony convictions was conducted in 300 counties
selected to be representative of the whole country. Included were the
District of Columbia and at least one county from each state except, by
chance, Vermont.  The survey excluded federal courts and those state or
local courts that do not handle felonies.  

    The bulletin, "Felony Sentences in State Court, 1992" (NCJ-151167),
was prepared by Patrick A. Langan and Helen A. Graziadei, statisticians
in the Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).  Data from tables
and graphs used in many BJS reports can be obtained in spreadsheet files
on 5.- and 3.-inch diskettes by calling 202-307-0784.

    Single copies of other BJS bulletins and reports may be obtained from
the BJS Clearinghouse, Box 179, Annapolis Junction, Maryland
20701-0179.  The telephone number is 1-800-732-3277. Fax orders to

After hours contact:  Stu Smith 301-983-9354
Date Published: January 24, 1995