Nearly half of felony defendants in the nation’s 75 most populous counties had at least one previous felony conviction, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in a biennial report on criminal court cases. In their new cases, sixty-eight percent of felony defendants were eventually convicted, and 95 percent of these convictions occurred through a guilty plea. Drug cases have been the most common in big counties since 1994, when they exceeded property crimes. Of drug trafficking defendants, 77 percent were sent to prison or jail, as were 63 percent of other drug cases. Murder cases took an average of about a year to complete; drug cases typically took 75 days.
The report said that nearly 60 percent of felony defendants were released before trial, a percentage that has remained stable for two decades. The most common form of pretrial release was through commercial surety bond. Since 1998, most pretrial releases of state court felony defendants have been under financial conditions requiring the posting of bail. About a third of released defendants committed some form of pretrial misconduct, including 18 percent who were re-arrested for a new offense committed while they awaited disposition of their case