If I pay someone to kill a person, am I still considered a murderer?

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In the United States, hiring someone to commit a murder, often referred to as a contract killing, is a serious criminal offense. This article explores the legal implications for individuals who engage in such activities, specifically addressing whether they are considered murderers under U.S. law.

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Under U.S. federal and state laws, the act of paying someone to commit murder is treated as a grave crime. The legal terms commonly associated with this act are “solicitation of murder” and “conspiracy to commit murder.”

Relevant Law Sections

  1. Federal Law: Under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, particularly sections 1111 and 1117, solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder are punishable by severe penalties, including life imprisonment or even the death penalty, depending on the circumstances of the case.
  2. State Laws: Each state has its own penal codes that define and punish murder, solicitation, and conspiracy. For example, in California, under Penal Code Section 653f, soliciting someone to commit murder is punishable as a felony.
  • Murder: Legally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.
  • Solicitation: Involves encouraging, commanding, or requesting another person to commit a crime.
  • Conspiracy: Entails an agreement between two or more persons to engage in criminal activity, including murder, with at least one overt act taken in furtherance of that agreement.

Case Law

Historical and recent case law in the U.S. illustrates that individuals who pay for a murder are often charged with first-degree murder as co-conspirators. This is because the law recognizes the planner of the crime as equally culpable as the one who physically executes the act.


  • In many states, if the person hired carries out the murder, the person who hired them will likely be charged with murder, reflecting their direct involvement and intent.
  • Conversely, if the plan is thwarted before it can be executed, charges may range from solicitation to conspiracy to commit murder, both of which carry heavy penalties.

The classification of someone who hires a hitman as a murderer has been the subject of legal and ethical debates. Issues typically arise concerning the moral guilt and legal responsibility of someone who does not physically commit the deed but orchestrates it.


In the context of U.S. law, paying someone to commit murder categorizes the payer as a murderer in the eyes of the law, subject to the same severe penalties as if they had committed the murder themselves. This legal stance is rooted in the principles of accountability and deterrence, aiming to punish the instigation and planning of heinous crimes severely.



Paying someone to commit a murder places the payer in the legal category of a murderer according to both federal and state laws in the U.S. This reflects the seriousness with which the legal system treats the orchestration and facilitation of murder, emphasizing prevention and accountability.

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