U.S. Prosecutions Drop in Budget Squeeze

Tight budgets at U.S. Attorneys’ offices have forced a drop in prosecutions, especially for drug, white-collar and violent crimes.

The offices got actual annual budget increases of only 1.9 percent from 2003 to 2006, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports, as federal spending priorities shifted to the fight against terrorism and the Iraq war.

Vacancies have gone unfilled, lawyer travel has been curtailed, and funds for things such as photocopies and depositions have been cut.

The number of federal prosecutors fell 2.4 percent between 2004 and 2006, at the same time that more than 100 lawyers and administrative personnel from U.S. attorneys’ offices traveled to Iraq to help the government there, the newspaper reports.

Prosecutions dropped 11 percent for drug crimes between 2002 and 2006, and 8.5 percent for violent crimes between 2003 and 2006. White-collar crime prosecutions recently increased but are still 8 percent below a 2002 high point.

The U.S. Justice Department admits that operations have been affected, but told the newspaper that offices “continue to pursue cases in these priority areas where federal prosecution is appropriate.” It also notes that Congress acted this year to restore funding in some cases.

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