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The Most Commonly Prosecuted Federal Crimes in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of New Jersey


6/22/2020

Every year, the United States Courts release various reports that detail the volume of cases that they handle. The reports include case data from every district court across the country, both civil and criminal, as well as bankruptcy cases. Reviewing this data can give insights into the federal court system that can be useful for criminal defense attorneys.

At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we stay abreast of the data and the law in order to better serve our clients. We know how federal prosecutors think and we know how the federal court system works. Attorney Lauren A. Wimmer has experience in dealing with federal agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If you’ve been charged in the District of New Jersey or the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, federal criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help. Call us at 215-712-1212 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation today.

National Trends

In 2019, there was an overall increase by 11% in criminal cases filed in the federal district courts, for a total of 90,473 cases. Drug crimes accounted for 28% of those cases, but increased by only 1%. Guns and weapons-related crime, on the other hand, increased by 17%, and made up 14% of the total number of cases across the country.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania is headquartered in Philadelphia, but covers the counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton. In addition to the City of Philadelphia, cases are also heard in Allentown, Reading, and Easton. The Eastern District is one of three federal districts in the state of Pennsylvania.

For 2019, there were 729 criminal cases prosecuted in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The following are the types of crimes, along with the highest number of cases for each crime:

  • Fraud: 130 cases
  • Drugs: 251 cases (no cases involving marijuana)
  • Guns: 91 cases
  • Sex offenses: 77 cases
  • Immigration crimes: 71 cases

Cases involving drugs and weapons charges are among the most commonly prosecuted cases in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Drug cases are the most common, while weapons charges are ranked third, behind fraud charges.

The District of New Jersey

Unlike Pennsylvania, there is only one federal judicial district for the entire state of New Jersey. The District of New Jersey holds court in Camden, Newark, and Trenton. In 2019, there were 918 criminal cases filed in the District of New Jersey, including the following:

  • Fraud: 187 cases
  • Drug cases involving marijuana: 111 cases
  • All other drugs: 207 cases
  • Guns: 161 cases
  • Sex offenses: 33 cases
  • Immigration crimes: 74 cases

Similar to Pennsylvania, drugs and weapons charges are among the most commonly prosecuted crimes in the District of New Jersey. 

Federal Drug Cases

Because drug cases are the most common criminal case in both the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, federal law enforcement officers typically focus on cases that involve drug trafficking and manufacturing, rather than simple possession cases. These cases often involve moving drugs across state lines and in large quantities. Transporting drugs via the United States Postal Service (USPS) mail service or private carriers such as UPS and FedEx can also trigger federal prosecution.

It’s interesting to note that New Jersey had 111 drug cases involving marijuana, while Pennsylvania had none. This could be a reflection of the attitudes in each jurisdiction – marijuana has been decriminalized in Philadelphia, while it remains illegal in New Jersey.

The penalties you face if convicted of a drug crime will depend on the crime you are charged with, the controlled substance involved, your criminal record, and additional factors. Sentencing can be extremely complicated under the federal sentencing guidelines. If you’ve been charged with a federal drug crime, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can explain the potential consequences you are facing.   

Federal Firearms Charges

Weapons charges are also among some of the most common charges in federal court. Typically, these charges fall into two categories:

  • Felon in possession of a firearm – Under federal law, it is a Class C Felony for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. This offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and possibly even more if you have a prior conviction for drugs or violent crimes.
  • Using a firearm in connection with a violent crime or a drug trafficking felony – Using a gun as part of committing a violent crime or while engaged in drug trafficking is a separate offense under federal law. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face anywhere from 5 to 30 years in federal prison.

It’s quite common for drug trafficking cases to also involve federal firearms charges, as the mere possession of a firearm could be construed as using a gun to further the committing a drug trafficking felony. Furthermore, if you are charged with a gun crime, it will also increase the potential penalties of the drug crime you are facing.

Federal vs. State Court

If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, it’s important to recognize that federal court is not the same as state court. Many defendants, and even some attorneys, make the mistake in thinking that both courts are basically the same. While some of the laws and procedure may be very similar, there are some very important differences you need to consider:

  • Federal investigations tend to be much more extensive and sophisticated than state investigations. Federal investigators have vast resources – legal, financial, and technological – they can draw upon that state investigators simply do not have.
  • Federal prosecutors build their cases very carefully, often not moving forward until they have the strongest case they possibly can. This may take years to build.
  • Federal prosecutors are often more aggressive than state prosecutors. This could be due to federal prosecutors’ political ambition or the intense pressure to successfully convict defendants. As a result, they may seek the harshest penalties possible and be less willing to enter into plea agreements.

If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, you need an attorney who has experience defending people in federal court. The expectations you have and the strategies you employ would not be the same as in state court.

Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney If You’ve Been Charged with a Federal Crime

Federal criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer defends clients in both state and federal court throughout the United States. When she takes on federal prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office or the Office of the Attorney General, she has the knowledge, experience, and skill that you need to get a fair result. Call us at 215-712-1212 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and to learn more about how we can help.