List of 40+ Most Serious Federal Crimes & Charges

What could be more serious than death? There are 41 federal crimes that can result in the death penalty, all but two of which involve murder or death. The two offenses that can get you the death penalty without killing anyone are treason and espionage. Here is the full list of federal offenses that can result in punishment by death, along with an explanation of each crime and its charges.

  1. Bringing in and harboring certain aliens resulting in the death of any person: Any person who knowingly brings an alien into the US, transports or moves an alien within the US, harbors or conceals and alien within the US, or encourages or induces an alien to the enter the US may be punished by death or imprisoned for any number of years or for life, fined, or both if the offense results in the death of any person. 8 USC 1324
  2. Destruction of aircraft, aircraft facilities, motor vehicle, or motor vehicle facilities resulting in death: Anyone who willfully sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or tampers with an aircraft, motor vehicle, or the facilities that house either one, will be subject to the death penalty or life in prison if someone died as a result of their actions. 18 USC 3218 USC 3318 USC 34
  3. Committing first-degree murder during a drug-related drive-by shooting: A drug-related drive-by shooting that involves first-degree murder is punishable by death or by up to life in prison with or without a fine. 18 USC 36
  4. Violence at an international airport resulting in death: Any person who uses any device, substance, or weapon to perform an act of violence against someone at an international airport or who seriously damages or destroys the airport or any out-of-service civil aircraft located at an international aircraft shall be punished by death or up to life in prison if someone dies as a result. 18 USC 37
  5. Murder of a family member of a US official, US judge, Federal law enforcement officer: Murder of a family member of any of the above, or of any officer or employee of the United States while the officer or employee is engaged in official duties is punishable by death or life in prison. 18 USC 11518 USC 111118 USC 1114
  6. Civil rights violations: If anyone interferes with a person’s right to participate in federally protected activities, obstructs someone’s free exercise of religion, deprives someone of rights under color of law, or conspires to deprive someone of their civil rights, that person shall be subject to punishment by death or by up to life in prison, a fine, or both, if the offense results in death or if it involves kidnapping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill. 18 USC 24118 USC 24218 USC 24518 USC 247
  7. Congressional, Cabinet, and Supreme Court assassination: Whoever kills or conspires to kill a Member of Congress, Member-of-Congress-elect, the head or second-ranking official of certain executive branch departments, the Director or Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence or the CIA, a major Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate, a Justice of the United States, or a person nominated to be a Justice of the United States, shall be punished by death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 35118 USC 1111
  8. Gathering or delivering defense information to a foreign government: A person who gathers or transmits defense information during time of war, or who gathers or transmits defense information that results in the death of an individual acting as an agent of the United States or information relating to defense against large scale attack, war plans, nuclear weapons, military spacecraft or satellites, communications intelligence, cryptographic information, or any other major weapons system or major defense strategy, shall be subject to punishment by death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 794
  9. Transporting or receiving explosives: Transporting or receiving explosives with the knowledge or intent that they will be used to kill, injure, or intimidate someone or to unlawfully damage or destroy any building or property is punishable by death or up to life in prison if it results in the death of any person. 18 USC 844
  10. Murder with the use of armor-piercing ammunition: Any person who commits first-degree murder using armor-piercing ammunition shall be punished by death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 924
  11. Murder with a dangerous weapon in a Federal facility: Anyone who commits first-degree murder with a dangerous weapon in a Federal facility shall be punished with death or life in prison. 18 USC 930, 18 USC 1111
  12. Genocide: Anyone who kills, conspires to kill, or attempts to kill a whole national, ethnic, racial, or religious group or a substantial part of such a group shall be punished by death or by up to life in prison and a fine of not more than $1,000,000. 18 USC 1091
  13. Murder: Anyone who is guilty of first-degree murder, being defined as any kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing, shall be subject to punishment by death or imprisonment for life. 18 USC 1111
  14. Murder of US officers and employees: Anyone who murders an officer or employee of the US or any agency or branch of the US government while that officer or employee is engaged in the performance of official duties, or anyone who murders someone who is assisting an officer or employee in the performance of official duties, shall be punished by death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 111418 USC 1111
  15. Murder of foreign officials, official guests, or internationally protected persons: Anyone who kills a foreign official, official guest, or internationally protected person shall be punished by death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 111618 USC 1111
  16. Murder by a Federal prisoner: A Federal prisoner who commits murder while serving a sentence of life in prison shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 1118
  17. Foreign murder of US nationals: A national of the United States who kills a national of the United States while that person is outside of the US is subject to punishment by death or life in prison only if the US Attorney General determines that the killer has left the country in which the murder took place and the country lacks the ability to secure the person’s return for prosecution. 18 USC 111918 USC 1111
  18. Murder by escaped prisoners: A prisoner who escapes from a Federal correctional institution where the person was serving a term of life imprisonment and commits murder shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 112018 USC 1111
  19. Murder of State correctional officers or persons aiding a Federal investigation: A person who intentionally kills a State or local official, law enforcement officer, or other officer or employee working with Federal law enforcement officials on a Federal criminal investigation or any other person assisting a Federal criminal investigation, shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 112118 USC 1111
  20. Kidnapping resulting in death: Any person convicted of kidnapping that results in the death of any person shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 1201
  21. Hostage taking resulting in death: Anyone who seizes another person as a hostage shall be subject to death or life in prison if the hostage-taking action results in the death of any person. 18 USC 1203
  22. Murder of a court officer or juror: Anyone who murders a grand or petit juror or an officer of any court of the United States shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 150318 USC 1111
  23. Murder of a witness, victim, or informant: A person who kills to prevent the testimony of a person in court, to prevent the production of evidence, or to prevent communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of information relating to a Federal offense or violation of conditions shall be punished by death or life in prison. 18 USC 151218 USC 1111
  24. Retaliation against a witness, victim, or informant: Anyone who kills a witness, victim, or informant in retaliation shall be subject to the death penalty or life in prison. 18 USC 151318 USC 1111
  25. Mailing of injurious articles resulting in death: Anyone who mails injurious articles such as poison, poisonous animals, explosives, hazardous materials, infernal machines, devices that can ignite or explode, disease germs, or other material that may cause harm, shall be penalized by death or life in prison if such action results in the death of any person. 18 USC 1716
  26. Presidential and Presidential staff assassination: Anyone who kills the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President, or other certain other high-ranking officials, or anyone who kidnaps any of said persons resulting in death, or anyone who conspires to kill any such person resulting in death, shall be punished by death or life in prison.  18 USC 175118 USC 1111
  27. Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire: Anyone who travels in interstate or foreign commerce or causes another to use the mail or any interstate or foreign commerce facility in the commission of a murder, or who conspires to do so, shall be punished by death or life in prison with a possible fine up to $250,000. 18 USC 1958
  28. Murder in aid of racketeering: Anyone committing murder in connection with racketeering activity shall be punished by death or life in prison, with or without a fine. 18 USC 1959
  29. Terrorist attacks and violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems: Anyone who damages any railway or mass transportation system in a way that interferes with the safety of any person shall be subject to punishment by death or life in prison if such action results in the death of any person. 18 USC 1992
  30. Murder committed during bank robbery: Any person who kills any person during the commission of a bank robbery or in avoiding or attempting to avoid apprehension, arrest, or confinement for such offense, shall be subject to punishment by death or life in prison.18 USC 2113
  31. Murder committed during motor vehicle theft: Anyone who causes death while taking a motor vehicle that has been involved in interstate or foreign commerce from another person by force shall be fined or imprisoned for any number of years up to life, or both, or sentenced to death. 18 USC 2119
  32. Sexual abuse resulting in death: A person committing sexual abuse resulting in death shall be sentenced to death or up to life in prison. 18 USC 2245
  33. Sexual exploitation of children: A person convicted of engaging in sexual exploitation of children resulting in death shall be punished by death or imprisoned for not less than 30 years or for life. 18 USC 2251
  34. Violence against maritime navigation resulting in death: Any person who kills a person in connection with violence against maritime navigation, including destroying a ship or damaging its cargo, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any number of years, up to life. 18 USC 2280
  35. Violence against maritime fixed platforms resulting in death: Any person who kills someone in connection with committing violence against maritime fixed platforms shall be subject to punishment by death or imprisoned for any number of years up to life. 18 USC 2281
  36. Terrorism: Whoever murders a national of the United States while said national is outside of the United States shall be fined, punished by death or imprisonment for any number of years up to life, or both. 18 USC 2332
  37. Use of weapons of mass destruction resulting in death: Anyone who uses weapons of mass destruction against a national of the United States while such national is outside of the United States, against any person or property within the United States, against any property owned, leased or used by the United States, or against any property within the US that is owned, leased, or used by a foreign government shall be imprisoned for any number of years up to life or punished by death if any person is killed as a result. 18 USC 2332a
  38. Torture resulting in death: Anyone who commits torture that results in death shall be punished by death or sentenced to any number of years up to life. 18 USC 2340a
  39. Treason: Anyone who owes allegiance to the United States and commits treason shall either be put to death or be imprisoned for not less than five years, fined not less than $10,000, and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. 18 USC 2381
  40. Murder by any person engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise: A person who murders or counsels, commands, induces, procures or causes the murder of a Federal, State or local law enforcement officer or any other person while engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise shall be punished by not less than 20 years and up to life in prison or be sentenced to death. 21 USC 848
  41. Aircraft piracy resulting in death: If a person kills someone in the process of seizing or exercising control of an aircraft by force or violence and with wrongful intent, the punishment shall be death or life in prison. 49 USC 46502
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