Crime — 10 months ago

United States Conviction Statistics

by infohub

United States Conviction Stats and Federal 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

US Conviction Statistics

As stated before, the conviction rate is the United States has been steadily rising since 1973. While in 1973 the conviction rate 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 Are the Conviction Rates in America 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 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.

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.  

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