Criminal-Case Probes Plunge for U.S. Prosecutors as Virus Spreads

May 21, 2020, 12:00 PM

The number of criminal cases sent to federal prosecutors in the U.S. plunged by more than half during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers at Syracuse University said.

About 1,800 cases a week were referred to U.S. attorneys offices during the first half of March, down from about 4,500 in February, according to a study released late Wednesday. Many states began imposing stay-at-home orders in March and closed all but essential businesses.

U.S. attorneys determine whether to charge defendants in federal criminal cases brought by local police or federal agencies. But many of the referring agencies saw a drop cases as the coronavirus spread, according to researchers at Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse who analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Justice obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

For example, referrals dropped in March from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency, the study showed. ICE and CBP referrals declined the most. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was the only agency without any significant change.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net

Steve Stroth

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