Crime — 2 years ago

United States Conviction Statistics

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United States Conviction Stats and Federal Conviction Rate

U.S Conviction Rate

The American justice system is one of the most complex of its kind in the world due to the size of the country, its population and the magnitude of the crimes committed in it. One of the most fascinating aspects of the justice system is its conviction rates, that have been steadily rising since 1973 and reaching nearly 100% in the past few years.

What is A Conviction Rate?

In the eyes of the law, a conviction (an official declaration that a person is guilty of committing a criminal offense) rate is the number of overall convictions divided by the number of criminal cases brought forth to a government or a prosecutor. Meaning, a conviction rate is the percentage of cases that result in a conviction in a particular courtroom or the government.

federal conviction rate - a 3D graph
Source: shutterstock

conviction rate in the US

As stated before, the conviction rate is the US has been steadily rising since 1973. While in 1973 the conviction rate in the US was 75%, it rose to 85% by 1992. By 2003, that figure rose to a staggering 99% conviction rate, and as of 2015, the federal conviction rate in the United States was 99.8% percent.

Other stats show an interesting image of the conviction rate in the United States that raises the question of how it got to be so high:

  • The total number of acquittals in 2015 was 258 out of 3,024 trials
  • 41 out of 42 defendants in 2015 who did not go to trial entered a plea of guilty
  • A jury had sentenced 1.6% of federal defendants who went to trial as opposed to a judge jury
  • 1 out of 63 federal court defendants is convicted by a jury (a judge sentences the rest)
  • In 2015, there 493 convictions per every acquittal
criminal sentencing statistics - a man standing in front of a judge in court
Source: shutterstock

How is the Conviction Rate in the US So High?

It is quite astounding to hear that the federal conviction rate in the US is 99.8%, but that's how it is. The reason is much simpler than you think – the high conviction rate in the US results from defendants pleading guilty to the crimes attributed to them, meaning they give a public confession about their guilt. The guilty plea is a conviction, and since most defendants enter a guilty plea, the conviction rate in the US is very high.

To see if a person has a conviction in their past, you can use GoLookUp's conviction search service that will provide you will all the information about a particular conviction and the crimes a person has committed. To perform the online conviction search, you will need to provide the first name and the last name of the person that you are searching.

conviction rate in the us
As soon as you do, GoLookUp will scan public records, and especially court and criminal records, to find out if the person in question has convictions in their past. When the search is complete, you will be able to find out if the person that you searched has a criminal past, and if they are a part of the conviction rate in the US. 

U.S. Conviction Rate by Crime

The high US conviction rate can be broken down to numbers based on the crimes that are committed in the country. Meaning, the chances of getting convicted in the U.S. vary depending on the crimes people commit. The following are U.S. conviction rates based on crimes:

felony defendants whose cases were adjudicated within the one-year tracking period – (89% of cases) – the conviction rate was 68%.

  • Motor vehicle theft – 74% US crime rate
  • Driving-related offense – 73% conviction rate
  • Murder – 70% conviction rate
  • Burglary – 69% US conviction rate
  • Drug trafficking - 67% conviction rate
  • Assault – 45% US conviction rate

The conviction rate in the US is one of the highest in the world, mostly because defendants plead guilty before a trial even begins. The number is likely to remain high as most defendants would rather take a reduced sentenced by entering a guilty plea rather than serve a full sentence – which is what happens with most court cases.

Conviction Rates by State
Conviction Rates by State

Every year, the law enforcement agencies in the U.S. collect data about convictions in each state and release conviction rates by state. The following are 10 states with the highest incarceration rates in the country with data about conviction rates by state:

10. Georgia – an incarceration rate of 512 per 100,000 people

9. Kentucky - an incarceration rate of 518 per 100,000 people

8. Missouri - an incarceration rate of 532 per 100,000 people

7. Texas - an incarceration rate of 563 per 100,000 people

6. Alabama - an incarceration rate of 571 per 100,000

5. Arkansas - an incarceration rate of 583 per 100,000 people

4. Arizona - an incarceration rate of 585 per 100,000 people

3. Mississippi - an incarceration rate of 624 per 100,000 people

2. Oklahoma - an incarceration rate of 673 per 100,000 people

1. Louisiana - an incarceration rate of 760 per 100,000 people


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