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The Criminal History of Federal Offenders, United States Sentencing Commission, 2018

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The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION

United States Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
www.ussc.gov

William H. Pryor Jr.
Acting Chair
Rachel E. Barkow
Commissioner
Charles R. Breyer
Commissioner
Danny C. Reeves
Commissioner
Zachary C. Bolitho
Ex Officio
J. Patricia Wilson Smoot
Ex Officio

Kenneth P. Cohen
Director
Glenn R. Schmitt
Director
Office of Research and Data

May 2018

Tracey Kyckelhahn, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Office of Research and Data
Emily Herbst, M.A., Research Associate, Office of Research and Data

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I. Introduction...............................................................................................................1
Key Findings..................................................................................................................................................................................2

Part II. Overview of the Criminal History of Federal Offenders........................................3
Instant Offense and Criminal History..................................................................................................................................4
The Use of Criminal History in the Sentencing Guidelines........................................................................................7
Relationship Between Criminal History Points and Past Offenses........................................................................8

Relationship Between Criminal History Category and Past Offenses...................................................................9

Comparing Convictions for Three-, Two-, One-, and Zero-Point Offenders........................................................10

Convictions Not Counted Under the Guidelines.............................................................................................................12

Part III. Conclusion..............................................................................................................13

Part IV. Appendix................................................................................................................14
Methodology.................................................................................................................................................................................14

Tables and Figures......................................................................................................................................................................15

Endnotes...............................................................................................................................27

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

i

Part I. Introduction
The number and nature of a federal offender’s prior convictions
are important considerations in deciding a federal sentence. Congress
codified this approach with the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act
of 1984 (SRA).1 In addition to requiring federal courts to consider the
history and characteristics of the defendant as a factor to consider in
imposing a sentence,2 the SRA contains numerous provisions directing
the United States Sentencing Commission (the “Commission”)3 to
account for an offender’s criminal history in establishing the federal
sentencing guidelines.4 Accordingly, Chapter Four of the Guidelines
Manual provides detailed criminal history calculations to be used in
determining an offender’s sentencing guidelines range.

While the Commission has collected the criminal history points and
Criminal History Category (CHC) as determined under the guidelines,
it has not collected complete information on the number of convictions
or the types of offenses in the criminal histories of federal offenders
until now. The Commission is now able to utilize recent technological
improvements to expand the scope of information it collects on an
offender’s criminal history and provide a more complete assessment of
the criminal history of federal offenders.

For the first time, this report provides complete information on the
number of convictions5 and types of offenses in the criminal histories of
federal offenders sentenced in a fiscal year. In completing this report,
the Commission collected additional details about the criminal histories
for 61,946 of the 67,742 federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016
for whom complete documentation was submitted to the Commission.
These prior offenses were grouped into 35 broad categories for analytical
purposes, and then collapsed further into 18 categories for reporting
purposes. The report provides analyses of these offenders’ criminal
histories by the type of federal offense they committed. The report also
provides information on the types of offenses these offenders committed,
the points assigned to those convictions under the federal sentencing
guidelines, and the types of offenses that did not receive points.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

1

Key Findings

2

•	

Almost three-quarters (72.8%) of federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 had been convicted of a prior offense. The
average number of previous convictions was 6.1 among offenders with criminal history.

•	

Public order6 was the most common prior offense, as 43.7 percent of offenders with prior criminal history had at least one
conviction for a public order offense.

•	

A conviction for a prior violent offense was almost as common as prior public order offenses, as 39.5 percent of offenders with
criminal history had at least one prior violent offense. Assault was the most common violent offense (29.5%), followed by robbery
(8.1%), and rape (4.4%). Just under two percent of offenders with criminal history had a prior homicide offense.

•	

The nature of offenders’ criminal histories varied considerably by their federal instant offense. The substantial majority (91.7%)
of firearms offenders had at least one previous conviction7 compared to about half of fraud (52.4%) and child pornography
(48.2%) offenders. Firearms offenders were also most likely to have violence in their criminal histories, as 62.0 percent of firearms
offenders with a previous conviction had a violent previous conviction. Fraud offenders were the least likely of offenders with
criminal history to have a violent previous conviction (26.2%).

•	

Most (86.6%) federal offenders with criminal history had convictions that were assigned criminal history points under the
guidelines. Offenders who had at least one three-point conviction were the most likely of all offenders with convictions to have a
murder (3.8%) or rape/sexual assault (7.0%) offense in their criminal histories.

•	

A criminal history score of zero does not necessarily mean an offender had no prior criminal history. Almost one in ten offenders
(9.8 percent) in fiscal year 2016 had a criminal history score of zero but had at least one prior conviction.8

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Part II. Overview of the Criminal History
of Federal Offenders	
In fiscal year 2016, there were 67,742 offenders sentenced in the
federal courts for a felony or Class A misdemeanor.9 Of these, 5,796 are
excluded from this report due to incomplete information that precluded
analysis. This report will focus on the 61,946 federal offenders sentenced
in fiscal year 2016 with complete documentation for their cases. Almost
three-quarters (72.8%) of those offenders had been convicted of a prior
offense (Figure 1).
The average number of prior convictions among those offenders was
6.1, with a median of four convictions (Figure 1). Among the 45,069
federal offenders with a prior conviction, 8,598 offenders had only one
prior conviction while one offender had 116 convictions in his criminal
history.	
Figure 1.
Overview of Criminal History Findings

who have committed at least two prior felony crimes of violence or
controlled substance offenses are to be deemed “career offenders” and
sentenced to higher penalties.11 Further, certain federal statutes require
that offenders who commit certain offenses after having been convicted
of similar offenses in the past be punished with longer sentences.12

The federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 who had at least
one prior conviction accounted for 273,414 total prior crimes. The
most common of these were convictions for public order offenses, as
43.7 percent of offenders with prior criminal history had at least one
conviction for a public order offense. Almost the same share, 39.5
percent of federal offenders, had one or more prior convictions for a
violent offense. Assault was the most common prior violent offense, with
29.5 percent of offenders having a conviction for that offense. Robbery
offenses were the next most common prior violent offense, at 8.1 percent,
followed by rape (4.4%), and homicide (1.9%). Figure 2 shows the
distribution of those offenses.
Figure 2.
Type of Prior Convictions—Offenders With Convictions*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%

No Convictions
27.2%

OFFENDERS WITH CONVICTIONS

45,069 (72.8%)

Total No. Convictions
Average No. Convictions

Convictions
72.8%

Median (50%) No. Convictions

273,414
6.1
4

60.0%
Violent Convictions

50.0%

43.7%

40.0%

29.5%

30.0%

26.7%

20.0%
10.0%

1.9%

4.4%

6.4%

24.9%

21.1%
14.5%

8.1%

37.6%

32.6%

15.1%

12.3%

17.6%

39.4%

19.6%
11.9%

0.0%
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were
excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that
analysis.

An offender’s criminal history is an important consideration when
courts determine the sentence to be imposed for a federal conviction.
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, an offender’s criminal history
is one of two principal factors that determines the sentencing guidelines
range—the other being the seriousness of the federal conviction the
offender committed.10 In general, among offenders who commit similar
federal crimes, the sentencing guidelines will prescribe a longer sentence
for an offender with a prior conviction. Also, under federal law, offenders

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

3

Instant Offense and Criminal History

Immigration offenders

The Commission uses the term “instant offense” to refer to the federal
conviction for which an offender is sentenced. In fiscal year 2016, the
four most common instant offenses were immigration, drugs, firearms,
and fraud. Together these offenses accounted for 81.6 percent of all
cases reported to the Commission.13 For this report, the Commission
separately analyzed the criminal histories of offenders sentenced for
these four offense types along with those convicted of child pornography
offenses. The Commission found substantial differences in the criminal
histories of these groups of offenders, both in the likelihood of having
prior convictions and in the nature of their past offenses (Table 1).

A total of 18,900 offenders were convicted of an immigration offense
in fiscal year 2016. The substantial majority (81.9%) of immigration
offenders had at least one conviction in their criminal histories. Over
half (52.1%) had at least one previous conviction for an immigration
offense. The next most common offenses for immigration offenders were
public order (30.8%), DUI (30.7%), traffic (29.1%), and drug possession
(23.8%). About a third (31.7%) of immigration offenders with at least
one prior conviction had a violent offense in their criminal histories.
Assault was the most common prior violent offense (23.1%) followed by
rape (4.4%), robbery (3.3%), and homicide (1.2%). Figure 3 shows the
distribution of those offenses.

Table 1.
Number of Prior Convictions by Type of Instant Offense

Instant Offense for Offenders with At Least One Prior Conviction

All Offenders

TOTAL OFFENDERS with conviction/s
273,414 Total Convictions
Average No. Convictions
Median (50%) No. Convictions

45,069 (72.8%)
6.1
4

Immigration
Offenders

Drug
Trafficking
Offenders

Firearms
Offenders

Fraud
Offenders

Child
Pornography
Offenders

15,481 (81.9%)

13,049 (69.3%)

6,309 (91.7%)

3,128 (52.4%)

919 (48.2%)

100.0%

4.4

6.7

8.9

5.4

3.6

90.0%

3

5

7

3

2

SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete
information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

Figure 3.
Types of Prior Convictions—Immigration Offenders*

Immigration Offenders

Convictions
81.9%
N=15,481

80.0%

No Convictions
18.1%
N=3,419

70.0%
60.0%

52.1%

50.0%

Violent Convictions

40.0%

30.7%

30.0%

23.1%

20.0%
10.0%

0.0%

1.2%

4.4%

3.3%

23.8%

20.9%

4.8%

17.7%

9.0%

9.6%

30.8%

29.1%
18.0%

13.6%
5.8%

8.0%

4.8%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

4

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Drug Trafficking offenders

Firearms offenders

There were 18,820 drug trafficking offenders in fiscal year 2016.
Over two-thirds of these offenders (69.3%) had at least one previous
conviction. Half of those offenders (52.0%) had at least one drug
possession offense in their criminal histories. The other top offenses for
drug trafficking offenders were public order (47.9%), traffic (45.9%),
drug trafficking (39.8%), and larceny (35.0%). Over a third (36.7%) of
drug trafficking offenders had a violent offense in their criminal history.
Assault was the most common prior violent offense (29.4%) followed by
robbery (6.6%), homicide (1.8%), and rape (1.5%). Figure 4 shows the
distribution of those offenses.

There were 6,309 firearms offenders in fiscal year 2016. Firearms
offenders were the group of federal offenders most likely to have
previous convictions in their criminal histories. Over ninety-percent
(91.7%) of firearms offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 had a
prior conviction. The most common offense types of prior convictions
for firearms offenders was public order (62.1%), followed by drug
possession (55.3%), and larceny (50.7%). Firearms offenders were also
the most likely to have violence in their criminal histories. A majority
(62.0%) of firearms offenders had at least one violent offense. Assault
was the most common violent offense (47.7%), followed by robbery
(20.7%), homicide (4.2%), and rape (3.3%). These offenders were
substantially more likely to have a homicide or robbery conviction than
other offenders.14 Figure 5 shows the distribution of those offenses.

Figure 4.
Types of Prior Convictions—Drug Trafficking Offenders*

Figure 5.
Types of Prior Convictions—Firearms Offenders*

Drug Trafficking Offenders

100.0%
90.0%

No Convictions
30.7%
N=5,771

Convictions
69.3%
N=13,049

80.0%

90.0%

70.0%

60.0%

60.0%

50.0%

Violent Convictions

39.8%

40.0%

0.0%

13.4%
1.8%

6.6%
1.5%

6.3%

62.1%

13.7%

18.4% 20.1%

47.7%

13.6%
4.8%

33.1%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

36.2%
28.7%

20.7%

20.0%
10.0%

46.6%

41.2%

30.0%

23.1%

55.3%

50.7%

40.0%

35.0%
22.1%

20.0%

Violent Convictions

50.0%

45.9%

29.4%

30.0%

10.0%

47.9%

No Convictions
8.3%
N=571

Convictions
91.7%
N=6,309

80.0%

70.0%

52.0%

Firearms Offenders

100.0%

15.4%

18.3%

19.0%

18.0%

10.2%
4.2%

3.3%

0.7%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

5

Fraud offenders

Child Pornography offenders

A total of 5,974 offenders were sentenced for a fraud offense in fiscal
year 2016. Just over half of these offenders (52.4%) had at least one
previous conviction. Traffic offenses were the most common offense
for these offenders (44.0%), followed by larceny (41.7%), public order
(39.1%), fraud (36.8%), and drug possession (24.8%). Fraud offenders
were the least likely to have a violent offense in their criminal history
(26.2%). Assault was the most common prior violent offense (20.0%)
followed by robbery (4.5%), rape (1.9%), and homicide (1.1%). Figure 6
shows the distribution of those offenses.

Child pornography offenders15 were the least likely of any major
group of federal offenders to have had a previous conviction. Of the
1,908 child pornography offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016, just
under half (48.2%) had a conviction in their criminal histories. Public
order (36.0%) was the most common past offense for child pornography
offenders followed by traffic offenses (34.6%), rape (26.4%), larceny
(22.4%), and DUI (22.3%). Overall, 40.8 percent of child pornography
offenders with at least one past conviction had been convicted of a
violent offense. Rape or sexual assault was the most common violent
offense among child pornography offenders, with one-quarter (26.4%)
of all child pornography offenders with a prior conviction having been
convicted of one of those offenses, followed by assault (15.1%), robbery
(1.6%), and homicide (0.5%). Figure 7 shows the distribution of those
offenses.
Figure 7.
Types of Prior Convictions—Child Pornography Offenders*

Figure 6.
Types of Prior Convictions—Fraud Offenders*

100.0%

Fraud Offenders

90.0%
No
Convictions
47.6%
N=2,846

Convictions
52.4%
N=3,128

80.0%
70.0%

50.0%

70.0%

39.1%

36.8%

Violent Convictions

30.0%

11.6% 11.9%
10.0%

1.1%

1.9%

4.5%

30.0%
18.9%

16.4%

4.2%

8.1%

12.7%

9.4%
0.5%

22.4%

20.0%

0.0%

36.0%

26.4%

0.5%

1.6%

34.6%

22.3%
14.6% 15.3%

15.1%

10.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Violent Convictions

40.0%

24.8%

20.0%

20.0%

50.0%

44.0%

41.7%

40.0%

6

No
Convictions
51.8%
N=989

Convictions
48.2%
N=919

80.0%

60.0%

60.0%

0.0%

Child Pornography Offenders

100.0%

90.0%

5.2%

9.6%
4.5%

9.6%

7.0%

5.9%

0.3%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Use of Criminal History in the Sentencing
Guidelines
The guidelines establish a method for evaluating an offender’s
criminal history by assigning points to some prior criminal convictions
and adjudications of juvenile delinquency based on the length of the
sentence imposed for those offenses. Through this process the court
calculates an offender’s “criminal history score,” which is then assigned
to one of six Criminal History Categories (CHCs). The combination of the
“offense level” of an offender’s instant offense and the offender’s CHC
determines a range of confinement, expressed in months, for the offense.
In this report, the Commission uses the offender’s criminal history
score as the basis for analyses, and so a basic understanding of the rules
that govern the criminal history calculation is necessary.16 An offender’s
past convictions are assigned one, two, or three points based on the
nature of the offense and the type and length of the sentence imposed.
These point assignments are designed to reflect the seriousness of the
crime of conviction. Criminal history points are assigned as follows:
	
	
	
	
	
	
	
	
	

(a)

(b)
(c)

(d)

Add 3 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding 	
one year and one month.
Add 2 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment of at 	
least sixty days not counted in (a).

Add 1 point for each prior sentence not counted in (a) or (b), up 	
to a total of 4 points for this subsection.
Add 2 points if the defendant committed the instant offense 	
while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, 	
parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or 		
escape status.

(e)	 Add 1 point for each prior sentence resulting from a conviction 	
of a crime of violence that did not receive any points under (a), 	
(b), or (c) above because such sentence was treated as a single 	
sentence, up to a total of 3 points for this subsection.17

In general, three-point convictions almost always represent a state or
federal felony conviction18 and are generally more serious than two-point
offenses, which are likewise more serious than one-point offenses.

Not all prior convictions are counted. Prior convictions for many
petty and other minor convictions are never assigned points under the
guidelines. Other petty or minor convictions are not assigned points
unless the sentence was a term of probation of more than one year or a
term of imprisonment of at least 30 days.19 Sentences imposed by foreign
courts or tribal courts, and sentences imposed for military offenses by
non-judicial officers also are not counted.20 Also, sentences imposed for
expunged convictions are not counted.21
Additionally, some prior sentences are deemed “stale” and are not
counted. For example, prior sentences of greater than thirteen months
are assigned criminal history points only if the sentence was imposed or
served within fifteen years of the instant offense. Sentences of thirteen
months or less are assigned criminal history points only if the sentence
was imposed within ten years of the instant offense. Finally, offenses
committed prior to age 18 are counted only if the sentence was imposed
within five years of the federal instant offense, unless the defendant was
convicted as an adult and sentenced to a term of more than thirteen
months, in which case the standard fifteen-year period applies. 22

In addition to the points assigned for prior sentences, two additional
considerations affect the criminal history score assigned at the time
the federal offenders discussed in this report were sentenced. First,
an offender is assigned two additional criminal history points if the
instant offense of conviction occurred while the offender was serving
a criminal justice sentence, to include when the offender was on
parole or supervised release from a period of incarceration for a prior
offense.23 These points are called “status points.” Second, prior to 2010,
an offender could receive one or two additional points if the instant
offense occurred less than two years after release from imprisonment
on a sentence that already counted in the criminal history score.24 These
points are called “recency points.” Recency points were no longer applied
starting with federal cases in which the 2010 Guidelines Manual was
applied.25

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

7

The total number of criminal history points determines the offender’s
CHC for the purpose of determining the sentencing guideline range
that applies under the guidelines. The total criminal history points
correspond to CHCs on the Sentencing Table as follows:
Criminal History
Category (CHC)
Total Criminal
History Points

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

(0 or 1)

(2 or 3)

(4, 5, 6)

(7, 8, 9)

(10, 11, 12)

(13 or more)

Relationship Between Criminal History Points
and Past Offenses
The rules for assigning points under the sentencing guidelines are
designed to reflect the seriousness of the conviction in an offender’s
criminal history. For this report, the Commission compared the types
of offenses in offenders’ criminal histories with the points assessed for
those convictions to determine the most common three-point, twopoint, and one-point offenses in their criminal records. Only convictions
with one type of offense were included in this analysis (“single type
convictions”). Those convictions that had offenses in two or more of the
18 categories used in this report were excluded (e.g., a single conviction
for both a burglary and a traffic offense).

As noted above, convictions that are not stale and receive a sentence
of imprisonment longer than 13 months receive three points, the highest
point score, and are considered the most serious convictions under the
sentencing guidelines. Convictions for drug trafficking offenses were the
most common single type three-point convictions in federal offenders’
criminal histories. Almost a quarter (23.3%) of three-point convictions
were for drug trafficking. Immigration offenses (12.3%) were the second
most common three-point convictions. Another drug offense, drug
possession (10.9%), was the third most common three-point convictions.
Figure 8 shows the distribution of those offenses.

8

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Two-point convictions receive sentences of imprisonment of at least
60 days and not more than 13 months. Convictions for immigration
offenses (21.9%) were the most common two-point convictions. Drug
possession (13.2%) was the second most common, followed by larceny
(10.4%). Figure 8 shows the distribution of those offenses.

One-point convictions are considered the least serious convictions
that receive points. Convictions for drug possession offenses (18.1%)
were the most common one-point convictions among federal offenders.
Larceny (13.7%) was the second most common, followed by DUI
(11.7%). Figure 8 shows the distribution of those offenses.
Figure 8.
Types of Prior Convictions for 3-, 2-, and 1-Point Offenses*

100.0%
Three Points

90.0%

Two Points

One Point

80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
40.0%
30.0%

Violent Convictions

20.0%
10.0%
0.0%

*For exact percentages of the types of convictions by criminal history points, see Appendix Figures 2 through 4.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing
information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

Relationship Between Criminal History
Category and Past Offenses

Figure 9.
Percent of Offenders and Convictions by Criminal History Category*

This section of the report analyzes the criminal history of offenders in
relation to the CHC to which they were assigned for sentencing purposes
in fiscal year 2016. The substantial majority (86.6%) of offenders who
had convictions in their criminal histories received points under the
guidelines for at least one of those convictions. The average number
of points for the offenders who received points was 6.5 points, with a
median of five points (Table 2).
Table 2.
Criminal History Scores for Offenders w/Criminal History Points*

CHC
V
5.5%

CHC
VI
9.5%

CHC
IV
9.6%

39,014

Average No. Points

6.5

Median (50%) No. Points

5

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction that received points.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases
reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete
information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

Offenders with criminal history scores assigned to the higher
Criminal History Categories had more prior convictions than offenders
in lower CHCs. Offenders in CHCs III, IV, V, and VI each accounted for a
disproportionate share of the prior criminal history of federal offenders
sentenced in fiscal year 2016. Offenders in CHC VI comprised 9.5 percent
of federal offenders in fiscal year 2016 population but 29.2 percent of
the convictions. Offenders in CHC V comprised 5.5 percent of federal
offenders in fiscal year 2016 but 12.5 percent of the convictions. CHC
IV and CHC III were 9.6 percent and 16.3 percent of offenders in fiscal
year 2016 but 16.6 percent and 20.2 percent of the criminal history,
respectively (Figure 9).

CHC
I
10.7%

CHC
VI
29.2%

CHC
I
45.3%

CHC
III
16.3%
CHC
II
13.8%

TOTAL OFFENDERS with point/s

By Convictions
N=273,414

By Offenders
N=61,946

CHC
V
12.5%

CHC
II
10.9%

CHC
III
20.2%
CHC
IV
16.6%

SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from
this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The average number of convictions for offenders in CHCs III through
VI was 8.5, and the median was seven. The most common type of prior
offense was public order, with 56.1 percent of all offenders in this group
having one or more convictions for that offense. The next most common
offenses were drug possession (50.7%), traffic (44.9%), and larceny
(43.8%). Figure 10 (p. 10) shows the distribution of those offenses.
Over half (52.3%) of offenders in the highest CHCs had violent
offenses in their criminal history. As with federal offenders overall,
assault was their most common prior violent offense (40.0%) for
offenders in CHCs III, IV, V, and VI, followed by robbery (12.3%), rape
(5.3%), and homicide (2.6%).

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

9

Offenders with criminal history scores assigned to CHCs I or II had
less criminal history than their share of the federal offender population.
Offenders in CHC II comprised 13.8 percent of offenders sentenced in
fiscal year 2016 but 10.9 percent of the convictions. The largest group
of federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 was assigned to CHC
I, the lowest category. In fiscal year 2016, 45.3 percent of offenders
had a criminal history score assigned to CHC I. However, their criminal
histories comprised only 10.7 percent of previous convictions of federal
offenders. The average number of convictions for offenders in CHCs I
and II was 3.0, and the median was two. The most common type of prior
offense for offenders in these CHCs was traffic (32.4%). The next most
common offenses were public order (27.8%), drug possession (20.9%),
and DUI (19.7%). Figure 10 shows the distribution of those offenses.26

Offenders in CHC I and II also were less likely to have a prior
conviction for a violent offense than offenders in higher CHCs. Slightly
less than a quarter (23.0%) of offenders in CHC I and II had a prior
violent offense. Assault was their most common prior violent conviction
(16.1%), followed by rape (3.3%), robbery (2.6%), and homicide (1.0%).

Figure 10.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Categories I-II and Categories III-VI*

Comparing Convictions for Three-, Two-, One-,
and Zero-Point Offenders	
As discussed above, most (86.6%) offenders sentenced in fiscal year
2016 who had convictions in their criminal history received points
under the guidelines for at least one of those convictions. Of the 39,014
offenders who received points for at least one of their convictions, half
(49.9%) had at least one three-point conviction in their criminal history.
The average number of three-point convictions was 1.9, and the median
number was two (Table 3).
Table 3.
Number of Prior Convictions for Offenders With At Least One
3-Point Conviction*

TOTAL OFFENDERS with conviction/s

19,462

Average No. 3-Point Convictions

1.9

Median (50%)

2

*This analysis includes only offenders with at least one prior 3-point conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742
cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to
incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were
excluded from that analysis.

100.0%
Criminal History Categories I-II

90.0%

Criminal History Categories III-VI

For the 43.7 percent of offenders with points who had at least one
two-point conviction, the average number of two-point convictions was
1.8 and the median was one (Table 4).

80.0%

70.0%

Violent Convictions

60.0%

56.1%
50.7%

50.0%

44.9%

43.8%

40.0%

40.0%

36.1%
29.3%

30.0%
20.0%
10.0%

0.0%

16.1%
12.3%
5.3%
2.6% 3.3%
2.6%
1.0%

14.7%

8.8%
3.3%

21.7%
18.2%
5.2%

19.2%
9.7%

20.9%

25.4%
17.3%

10.6%
5.8%

29.0%

19.7%

32.4%
27.8%
22.8%

15.5%

7.6%

14.9%
7.9%

Table 4.
Number of Prior Convictions for Offenders With At Least One
2-Point Conviction*

TOTAL OFFENDERS with conviction/s

17,058

Average No. 2-Point Convictions

1.8

Median (50%)
*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing
information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

10

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

1

*This analysis includes only offenders with at least one prior 2-point conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742
cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to
incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were
excluded from that analysis.

Over two-thirds (68.3%) of all offenders with points had at least one
conviction that received one point. The average number of one-point
convictions was 2.1 and the median was one (Table 5).

Three-point offenders were substantially more likely to have
convictions for homicide, rape/sexual assault, and robbery offenses
than offenders in the other three categories. At least one conviction
for homicide was in the criminal histories of 3.8 percent of three-point
offenders. Rape/sexual assault offenses were present in 7.0 percent
of the criminal histories of these offenders. Convictions for a robbery
offense was in 15.6 percent of their criminal histories (Figure 11).

Table 5.
Number of Prior Convictions for Offenders With At Least One
1-Point Conviction*

TOTAL OFFENDERS with conviction/s

26,666

Average No. 1-Point Convictions

2.1

Median (50%)

In contrast to three-point offenders, homicide offenses were present
in the criminal history of 0.4 percent of two-point offenders and 0.3
percent of one-point offenders. Rape/sexual assault offenses were
present in the criminal histories of 3.3 percent of two-point offenders
and 1.8 percent of one-point offenders (Figure 11).

1

*This analysis includes only offenders with at least one prior 1-point conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742
cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to
incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were
excluded from that analysis.

A total of 6,054 offenders had a criminal history score of zero but
had one or more prior convictions that did not receive points under
the guidelines. Most of these offenders (57.2%) had at least one stale
conviction. Stale convictions can be any type of offense, including
serious violent offenses. These offenders were more likely to have
convictions for homicide and rape/sexual assault than both two-point
and one-point offenders. Among the subset of zero-point offenders
with stale convictions, 0.9 percent had at least one stale conviction for a
homicide offense, 3.6 percent had at least one stale rape/sexual assault,
and 2.5 percent had at least one stale robbery (Figure 11). Zero-point
offenders with a stale conviction were also more likely to have a robbery
offense than one-point offenders (2.5% as compared to 1.7%). Figure 12
(p. 12) provides the full distribution of stale offenses for these zero-point
offenders.

The Commission performed additional analyses of the offenses in
federal offenders’ criminal histories to determine if the presence of a
three-point offense indicated a more violent criminal history. Specifically,
the Commission grouped offenders by the highest number of criminal
history points assigned to any single prior conviction and examined
the offender’s criminal history for the presence of a conviction for
homicide, rape/sexual assault, or robbery. Four categories were created
for comparison: (1) offenders with at least one three-point conviction
(“three-point offenders”);27 (2) offenders with at least one two-point
conviction but no three-point convictions (“two-point offenders”);28
(3) offenders with one-point convictions but no two or three-point
convictions (“one-point offenders”); and (4) offenders with a total
criminal history score of zero but at least one stale conviction (“zeropoint stale offenders”).29
Figure 11.
Types of Prior Convictions by Categories of Offenders*

Categories of Offenders
No
Convictions
27.2%
N=16,877

3-Point Offenders

2-Point Offenders

19,462
Convictions
72.8%
N=45,069

1-Point Offenders

8,774

0-Point Offenders
with Stale Convictions

10,738

3,465

Prior Conviction

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Homicide

747

3.8

39

0.4

34

0.3

32

0.9

Rape/Sexual Assault

1,359

7.0

286

3.3

198

1.8

125

3.6

Robbery

3,044

15.6

314

3.6

181

1.7

85

2.5

*This analysis includes only offenders with at least one prior non-petty conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information.
Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

11

minor crime, the average number of these convictions was 2.9 and the
median was two (Table 6).

Figure 12.
Type of Prior Stale Convictions For Offenders With Zero Criminal History Points*
100.0%
90.0%

Table 6.
Offenders with Minor Prior Convictions*

80.0%
70.0%

Minor Convictions
(USSG §4A1.2(c)(1) or (2))

60.0%
50.0%

40.0%

TOTAL OFFENDERS

Violent Convictions

30.0%

10.0%
0.0%

Average No. Minor Convictions

22.7%

17.3%

20.0%

0.9%

3.6%

2.5%

14.0%
3.2%

6.9%

20.6%

18.3%
10.0%

9.5%

19.6%

Median (50%)

14.4%
4.8%

7.9%

6.1%

5.8%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one stale prior conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing
information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

Convictions Not Counted Under the Guidelines
As discussed above, some convictions are not assigned criminal history
points under the federal sentencing guidelines. Most petty and other
minor offenses are never assigned points under the guidelines. 30
Although these offenses do not receive points under the sentencing
guidelines, the Commission collected information on the number of
offenders with these offenses in their criminal histories for this report.

Petty and Other Minor Crimes

Just under half (43.5%) of federal offenders had at least one conviction
for a petty or otherwise minor offense that was not assigned points under
the sentencing guidelines. In total, there were 57,748 petty or minor
convictions excluded from the criminal histories of offenders in fiscal year
2016. Among the 19,626 offenders with convictions for a petty or other

19,626
2.9
2

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one minor prior conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742
cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to
incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were
excluded from that analysis.

Stale Convictions
Convictions in offenders’ criminal history also may not be counted
due to the time that has elapsed from the sentence for that conviction
and the earliest date of relevant conduct to the offender’s instant federal
offense.31 Just over half (51.4%) of offenders with convictions had at
least one stale conviction that was not assigned criminal history points
when the offender was sentenced. In total, there were 84,678 stale
convictions excluded from offenders’ criminal histories in fiscal year
2016. Among the 23,170 offenders with at least one stale conviction,
the average number of stale convictions was 3.7 and the median was two
(Table 7).
Table 7.
Offenders with Stale Prior Convictions*

Stale Convictions
(USSG §4A1.2(e)(3) or (4))
TOTAL OFFENDERS
Average No. Stale Convictions
Median (50%)

23,170
3.7
2

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one stale prior conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742
cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to
incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were
excluded from that analysis.

12

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Figure 13 shows the distribution of stale offenses among all offenders
with at least one conviction, including those without stale convictions.
Among all offenders with any criminal history, the most common stale
convictions were larceny (17.6%), public order offenses (16.8%), and
drug possession (15.4%). However, 17.4 percent of all offenders with
any criminal history had at least one stale violent offense. Assault
was the most common prior violent stale offense, with 13.7 percent of
offenders with any criminal history having at least one stale assault in
their criminal history. The next most common stale violent offenses were
robbery (2.7%), rape (1.4%), and homicide (0.4%).
Figure 13.
Types of Stale Convictions—Offenders With Prior Convictions*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%

70.0%
60.0%
50.0%

Violent Convictions

40.0%
30.0%
20.0%

0.0%

17.6%

13.7%
7.7%

10.0%
0.4%

1.4%

2.7%

2.0%

7.2%

Historically, the Commission has regularly collected data only on
the points assigned to previous offenses under the federal sentencing
guidelines. This is the first report that provides complete criminal
history information for federal offenders, including the types of offenses
in offenders’ criminal histories. It also provides information on previous
convictions that did not receive points.
The total number of previous convictions among federal offenders
sentenced in fiscal year 2016 was 273,414. Most offenders (72.8%)
had at least one conviction in their criminal histories and the average
number of convictions was 6.1. The most common prior offenses were
public order offenses, as 43.7 percent of offenders with prior criminal
history had at least one conviction for a public order offense. Almost
as many offenders had prior violent offenses (39.5%). Assault was the
most common violent offense (29.5%) followed by robbery (8.1%), rape
(4.4%), and homicide (1.9%).

16.8%

15.4%
5.0%

Part III. Conclusion

9.7%
4.3%

6.8%

11.1%

10.8%
3.0%

4.2%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing
information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

13

Part IV. Appendix
Methodology
As part of its mission, the Commission collects, analyzes, and
disseminates a broad array of information on federal crime and
sentencing practices. To conduct its research and data activities, the
Commission relies on sentencing documents submitted by the courts.
Within 30 days after entry of judgment in a federal criminal case the
chief judge of the district is required by statute to ensure the Commission
is provided copies of (1) the judgment and commitment order; (2) a
written statement of reasons for the sentence imposed; (3) any plea
agreement; (4) the indictment or other charging document; (5) the
presentence investigation report (PSR); and (6) any other information
the Commission finds appropriate.32 The Commission uses these
documents to create its annual individual offender datafiles and other
specialized data for its work.
Historically, the data on an offender’s criminal history collected
and reported by the Commission was limited to the number of points
assigned under Chapter Four of the federal sentencing guidelines. For
the research discussed in this report, the Commission used optical
The 35 offense categories were as follows:

recognition software to extract criminal history information from the
Juvenile Adjudication and Adult Conviction sections of an offender’s
PSR. Data gathered on conviction information through this software for
each juvenile adjudication or adult conviction includes: whether it was
a juvenile adjudication or adult conviction, Chapter Four guideline(s)
cited, jurisdiction of adjudication/conviction, date of arrest, and date of
sentence. The conviction charge(s) were also scanned and categorized
into 35 standardized offense types. Staff then reviewed the information
scanned by the software and corrected any errors.

For the analysis in this report Commission staff used the criminal
history data along with the data in the Commission’s individual offender
datasets. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994(w), a district court is directed to
submit to the Commission five sentencing documents in each felony
or Class A misdemeanor case. These documents are then analyzed to
extract demographic, conviction, sentencing, and guideline application
information for each case. In fiscal year 2016 the Commission’s
individual datafile included 67,742 cases.33 Criminal history and
complete documentation information was available for 61,946 of these
cases.

•

Murder

•

Intimidation (Not Witness)

•

Drug Possession

•

Unspecified Manslaughter

•

Hit and Run with Bodily Injury

•

Unspecified Drug Offense

•

Non-Negligent Manslaughter

•

Extortion

•

Escape/Flight

•

Vehicular Manslaughter

•

Child Abuse

•

Weapons Offenses

•

Negligent Manslaughter

•

Other Violent Offense

•

Court Violation

•

Kidnapping

•

Burglary

•

Rioting

•

Statutory Rape

•

Arson

•

Traffic

•

Forcible Sex Offense

•

Fraud

•

DUI

•

Robbery

•

Larceny/Motor Vehicle Theft

•

Public Order

•

Aggravated Assault

•

Embezzlement

•

Immigration

•

Simple Assault

•

Other Property

•

All Other Offenses

•

Intimidating a Witness

•

Drug Trafficking

The 35 categories were further consolidated into 18 broader offense categories for analysis purposes:

14

•

Homicide

•

Burglary

•

Weapons Offense

•

Rape

•

Larceny

•

DUI

•

Robbery

•

Fraud

•

Immigration

•

Assault

•

Other Property

•

Public Order

•

Other Violent

•

Drug Possession

•

Traffic

•

Drug Trafficking

•

Other Drug Offense

•

All Other Offenses

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Tables and Figures

Appendix Figure 1 and Appendix Table 1 include all offenders in
those five categories, and provide the distribution of prior offenses in
offenders’ criminal history. The figures in the report body only included
offenders with convictions. Appendix Figures 2 through 4 provide the
distribution of offenses for three-, two-, and one-point convictions.
Appendix Figures 5 through 10 provide the distribution of offenses for
offenders in each CHC. For these figures only offenders with criminal
history are included. 	

The Appendix tables and figures provide additional information. The
figures in the report comparing immigration, drug trafficking, firearms,
fraud, and child pornography offenders provide data only on offenders
with prior convictions.

Appendix Figure 1.
Types of Prior Convictions by Offenders’ Instant Offense*
100.0%
90.0%

Type of Instant Offense
Drug Trafficking

Firearms

Fraud

Immigration

Child Pornography

80.0%
70.0%
60.0%

Violent Convictions

50.0%

40.0%
30.0%
20.0%
10.0%
0.0%

*Denominator includes offenders without convictions.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing
information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

15

Appendix Table 1.
Types of Prior Convictions by Offenders’ Instant Offense*
Type of Instant Offense

Type of Prior Conviction

TOTAL OFFENDERS

Drug
Trafficking

Firearms

Fraud

Immigration

Child
Pornography

18,820

6,880

5,974

18,900

1,908

Homicide

1.3%

3.9%

0.6%

1.0%

0.3%

Rape/Sexual Assault

1.0%

3.0%

1.0%

3.6%

12.7%

Robbery

4.6%

19.0%

2.4%

2.7%

0.8%

20.4%

43.8%

10.5%

18.9%

7.3%

Assault
Other Violent

4.3%

9.3%

2.2%

3.9%

2.5%

27.6%

30.4%

6.1%

17.1%

2.2%

Burglary

9.3%

26.3%

6.2%

7.3%

4.6%

Larceny

24.3%

46.5%

21.8%

14.5%

10.8%

Drug Trafficking

Fraud

9.5%

14.1%

19.3%

7.9%

4.6%

Other Property

15.3%

33.2%

8.6%

11.1%

7.0%

Drug Possession

36.1%

50.8%

13.0%

19.5%

7.4%

Other Drug

12.8%

16.8%

4.2%

4.7%

3.4%

Weapon

13.9%

37.8%

4.9%

6.5%

2.8%

DUI/DWI

16.1%

17.4%

9.9%

25.1%

10.7%

Immigration

3.3%

0.7%

0.3%

42.7%

0.2%

Public Order

33.2%

57.0%

20.5%

25.2%

17.4%

*Denominator includes offenders without convictions.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded
from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

16

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Figure 2.
Types of Prior Convictions for 3-Point Offenses
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
40.0%
Violent Convictions

30.0%

23.3%

20.0%
10.0%
0.0%

1.3%

2.7%

5.9%

6.6%
1.1%

6.2%

7.7%

12.3%

10.9%

5.0%

1.0%

6.8%
0.7%

2.2%

4.6%

0.5%

1.1%

SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

17

Appendix Figure 3.
Types of Prior Convictions for 2-Point Offenses
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
40.0%
Violent Convictions

30.0%

21.9%

20.0%
9.7%

10.0%
0.0%

0.0%

0.7%

0.9%

0.9%

6.1%

13.2%

10.4%
2.9%

4.2%

2.6%

1.6%

2.5%

6.6%

9.9%

5.0%

0.8%

SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

18

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Figure 4.
Types of Prior Convictions for 1-Point Offenses
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
40.0%
Violent Convictions

30.0%
20.0%
10.0%
0.0%

0.1%

0.4%

0.7%

18.1%

13.7%

9.8%
0.8%

3.2%

1.5%

11.7%
3.8%

3.4%

4.0%

2.5%

9.6%

8.9%

6.9%
1.1%

SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

19

Appendix Figure 5.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category VI*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%

76.2%

Violent Convictions

70.8%

70.0%

63.4%

60.0%

55.0%

57.4%

52.6%

50.0%

44.5%

40.0%

27.8%

30.0%

27.9%

29.6%
21.9%

19.1%

20.0%
10.0%

38.9%

36.0%

13.0%

3.3%

11.2%

5.0%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

20

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Figure 6.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category V*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
Violent Convictions

70.0%

66.6%

60.0%
47.9%

50.0%
40.0%

48.7%

35.1%

34.6%
27.3%

30.0%
20.0%
10.0%

57.4%

52.7%

14.2%
2.8%

6.7%

29.5%
22.8%

19.6%

30.6%

27.4%

16.8%

10.3%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

21

Appendix Figure 7.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category IV*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%

Violent Convictions

60.0%

54.8%
49.1%

50.0%

42.7%

41.6%

37.9%

40.0%

33.5%
27.2%

30.0%
20.8%

20.0%
10.0%

13.0%
2.5%

5.5%

16.7%

25.1%
15.5%

29.9%

28.9%

13.6%

8.3%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

22

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Figure 8.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category III*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%

Violent Convictions

50.0%

29.9%

30.0%

30.7%

28.5%

27.7%
19.8%

20.0%
10.0%

41.7%

37.9%

40.0%

2.3%

5.0%

7.5%

12.1%
6.2%

14.5%

11.5%

16.3%

37.7%

24.4%
11.1%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

23

Appendix Figure 9.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category II*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
Violent Convictions

40.0%
30.0%

20.1%

20.0%
10.0%

1.7%

4.8%

4.3%

4.4%

29.0%

27.4%

22.3%

21.9%

20.6%
7.1%

10.9%

12.0%

7.6%

9.9%

28.6%

20.6%
8.2%

0.0%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

24

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Appendix Figure 10.
Types of Prior Convictions for Offenders in Criminal History Category I*
100.0%
90.0%
80.0%
70.0%
60.0%
50.0%
40.0%

35.2%

Violent Convictions

26.8%

30.0%
20.0%
10.0%
0.0%

16.4%

13.0%
0.5%

2.2%

1.4%

9.0%
2.5%

3.8%

18.1%

16.0%
8.8%

9.5%

11.6%
4.5%

5.9%

7.7%

*This analysis includes offenders with at least one prior conviction in that offense category.
SOURCE: U.S. Sentencing Commission FY 2016 Criminal History Datafile. Of the 67,742 cases reported to the Commission, 5,796 were excluded from this analysis due to incomplete information. Cases
missing information necessary for analysis were excluded from that analysis.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

25

26

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

Endnotes
1	
(1984).
2	

Title II, Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473

18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1)

3	
The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency
in the judicial branch of government. Its principal purposes are (1) to establish
sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts, including guidelines to
be consulted regarding the appropriate form and severity of punishment for
offenders convicted of federal crimes; (2) to advise and assist Congress and
the executive branch in the development of effective and efficient crime policy;
(3) to collect, analyze, research, and distribute a broad array of information on
federal crime and sentencing issues; and (4) to devise and conduct seminars and
workshops providing continuing studies for persons engaged in the sentencing
field.
4	

28 U.S.C. §§ 991(b)(1)(B), 994(d)(1), 994(h), 994(i), and 994(j).

5	
“Conviction” includes criminal convictions, juvenile adjudications, and
diversionary or deferred dispositions resulting from a finding or admission of
guilt or a plea of nolo contendere.

6	
Public order includes offenses such as disorderly conduct, obstruction
of justice, prostitution, gambling, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
7	
18 U.S.C. § 922(g) criminalizes possession of a firearm for specified
groups of people, including those who have a previous qualifying conviction.
Therefore, criminal history is a required element for many federal firearms
offenders.
8	
Convictions may not receive points under the guidelines due to the
minor nature of the offense or due to the amount of time that has passed.

9	
See generally U.S. Sentencing Comm’n, 2017 Sourcebook of Federal
Sentencing Statistics (2018). The Commission receives information from the
courts on cases in which the defendant has been convicted of a felony or a Class
A misdemeanor. The fiscal year for the federal government begins on October 1
and ends on September 30. The fiscal year is designated by the calendar year in
which it ends.
10	
For more information about the operation of the federal sentencing
guidelines, see U.S. Sentencing Comm’n, Federal Sentencing: The Basics 18
(2015).

11	
This section provides a simplified summary of the criminal history
calculation for those sentences which resulted in points, for purposes of
understanding the data set forth in this report. Several criminal history rules,
including those that apply to stale convictions and revocation sentences, are not
discussed here. For a complete understanding of the rules that govern criminal
history, see U.S. Sentencing Comm’n, Guidelines Manual, Ch. 4 (Nov. 2016)
[hereinafter USSG].
12	

See, e.g., 21 U.S.C. § 841, 18 U.S.C. § 3559, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

13	
For more than a decade, drugs, immigration, fraud, and firearms cases
constituted the vast majority of federal felonies and Class A misdemeanors. For
more information about the cases reported to the Commission see generally, U.S.
Sentencing Comm’n., Overview of Federal Criminal Cases Fiscal Year 2016
(2017) [hereinafter 2016 Overview].

14	
For comparisons across all five instant offenses that include both
offenders with and without convictions in the denominator, see Appendix Table 1
and Appendix Figure 1.

15	
This categorization of child pornography includes both production and
possession.
16	
17	

USSG, supra note 11, at Ch. 4.
Id. at §4A1.1.

18	
In a few states, some misdemeanors are punishable by an incarceration
sentence of 13 months or longer. Under the sentencing guidelines these
misdemeanors would receive three points.
19	

USSG, supra note 11, at § 4A1.2(c).

21	

USSG, supra note 11, at § 4A1.2(j).

23	

USSG supra note 11, at § 4A1.1(d).

25	

See USSG, supra note 11, at App. C, amend. 742 (eff. Nov. 1, 2010).

20	
22	

Id. at § 4A1.2(g), (h), (i).

Id. at §§4A1.2(d) and (e).

24	
If an offender also received status points, only one point was assigned
for recency. If an offender did not receive status points, two points were assigned
for recency.
26	

For information on offenses for each individual CHC, see Appendix
The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

27

Figures 5 through 10.

27	
Some of these offenders also had two-point and one-point convictions
in their criminal history in addition to their three-point convictions.
28	
Some of these offenders also had one-point convictions in their
criminal history in addition to their two-point convictions.

29	
All categories of offenders included some with stale convictions in
addition to convictions that were assigned criminal history points.
30	

USSG, supra note 11, at §4A1.2(c).

32	

28 U.S.C. § 994(w)(1).

31	
A conviction may be excluded under both the petty and staleness
provisions.
33	

28

Each case represents an individual offender.

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

29

30

The Criminal History of Federal Offenders

 

 

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