10 Crimes That Can Get You The Death Penalty In The US

Getting the death penalty is something that one generally tries to avoid in life, but that might not be as easy as it seems. There are some crimes that don't necessarily involve taking the life of another individual that can earn you a death sentence. That seems odd, considering the fact that one would assume the only crime that should be paid with a person's life would be murder.

Capital punishment still exists in the US but many countries have abolished it for all crimes. In fact, most of Europe has abolished capital punishment for any crime. Being that the US still practices this form of punishment, the country is actually in a minority. Also, in 2015, of the countries that are still practicing capital punishment, the US came in fifth for actual executions. The only countries that had executed more convicts were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and China.

Capital punishment in the United States is a hot topic, as there are supporters for such drastic action and there are also people who speak out against it, believing that no crime should be paid for with a live. While this piece doesn’t necessarily explore all of the sides of this debate, it is important to know what crimes are actually punishable by the death penalty in the United States, especially if you are going to take a side on the capital punishment debate.

Below are ten crimes that you may not have known are punishable by death in the United States.

10 First Degree Murder

Shall we just get this one out of the way?

First degree murder is defined as the unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated. So, if you meticulously plan a perfect crime style murder but then get caught, you might wind up getting the death penalty. This type of murder isn’t something that is in the heat of passion or caused by dangerous misconduct. In those cases, it is generally considered second degree murder and you’d be in the clear (for the most part) of the death penalty.

9 Placing A Bomb Near A Bus Station (In Missouri)

Missouri is all about that public transportation. No, but seriously if you place an explosive near a bus station in Missouri, they are going to be pissed… like, so pissed that they might sentence you to death.

This is actually quite reasonable considering how frequently terrorists attacks happen on or near venues of public transportation. Anymore, it seems that planes, trains, buses and all locations to board such modes of transportation are all unsafe.

If the bomb did go off and took the lives of innocent people, this case would turn into one of first degree murder and, as you’ve learned, such a crime can face the death penalty. What Missouri is saying is that even if your bomb doesn’t kill anyone or doesn’t even go off, you could face the death penalty just for placing it at a bus station.

8 Carjack Resulting In Death

If you’re ever in need for a quick ride and without a car, you shouldn’t turn to carjacking.

7 Torture Resulting In Death

Like carjacking resulting in death, this is listed separately as one may be able to argue that it isn’t necessarily a first degree murder. I mean, I suppose one could argue that they tortured someone and didn’t really mean to kill them. That wasn’t their intention, right? They just like totally wanted to torture them a little bit and let them keep living.

6 Aircraft Hijacking (In Georgia and Missouri)

In this case, aircraft hijacking is a crime punishable by the death sentence even if no one is murdered, however only in Georgia and Missouri.

While this is not a federal crime punishable by the death sentence, it is a state crime punishable by the death sentence in those two states. Generally, one who is hijacking a plane is probably up to no good and it is likely they are possibly planning to take a life or several.

5 Attempting To Kill A Juror Or Witness

For this one, again, you don’t actually have to murder someone to get the death penalty.

If you are planning on murdering a member of the jury, you could face the death penalty, even if you don’t actually murder them. This protects the innocent people who are serving their jury duty because jury duty sucks and the government doesn't want to give anyone another reason to blow it off.

Also, if you attempt to murder a witness, who is likely going to testify with some case-changing testimony, you could face the death penalty for this as well.

4 Large Scale Drug Trafficking

Large scale drug trafficking isn’t just your corner drug dealer. It’s the guy who is in charge of the guy who is in charge of the guy and so on. It’s the head honcho. For the guy in charge of the operation to actually be sentenced to the death penalty, he would have to be pushing a large, large quantity, which resulted in someone’s death, be it an overdose or a murder.

3 Espionage

Don’t mess with the US, okay? That’s basically the point the government makes with the very few non-murder crimes for which one can receive the death penalty.

Espionage is among one of the few crimes you could receive the death penalty that doesn’t involve killing someone. I get it. I mean, selling out the United States to another country is a pretty big deal and how exactly would the country really trust one to continuing living in the country it tried to sabotage?

2 Treason

Like espionage, treason is another crime that can land you the death penalty even if you yourself haven’t murdered anyone.

Treason is more or less the same thing as espionage. It is a breach of trust resulting from an individual working to overthrow the government. So, unlike espionage, you could be convicted of treason without actually spying, but rather just helping a spy.

1 Assassinating The President

Obviously, right? If you assassinate The President of the United States, you’re definitely going to get the death penalty.

While we lost JFK in the past 50 years, no one was been executed for assassinating a president since 1882 when Charles J. Guiteau was hanged for the assassination of President James Garfield.

John Wilkes Booth, who famously assassinated Abraham Lincoln, died of a gunshot wound before a trial could even be conducted. His four co-conspirators were hanged in 1865.

Most recently, Lee Harvey Oswald may have almost definitely been sentenced to death for assassinating the dreamiest president John F. Kennedy had he not been killed by Jack Ruby.

Also, a fun fact – assassinating a president wasn’t made a federal crime until after the death of JFK. These past incidences were all just state crimes.


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10 Crimes That Can Get You The Death Penalty In The US