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Can drug crimes result in the death penalty? Surprisingly, yes

Under federal law, the death penalty (or capital punishment) can be used under a variety of criminal circumstances. Federal offenses like murdering a government official, treason, kidnapping-related murders and even operating a large-scale drug ring can result in the death penalty.

In 1988, a federal death penalty law went into effect relating to murder in connection with a drug conspiracy. Since that time, six individuals have been sentenced to capital punishment as a result of the law. However, none of these individuals have -- as of yet -- been executed.

In 1994, another federal law was put into place, which expanded the possibility of a death penalty punishment with regard to sixty additional federal crimes. Three of those crimes do not involve murder. Those include treason, espionage and, yes, large-scale drug trafficking-related crimes.

Another federal law -- the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 -- was put into place following the Oklahoma City bombing, which hit a federal building. The law allowed for the streamlining of the death penalty process so that convicted individuals will be put to death faster and reduce costs associated with carrying out such a punishment. That said, many have argued that this streamlining has increased the likelihood of innocent people being executed for crimes they did not commit.

Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh was killed by way of lethal injection by federal authorities on June 11, 2001, making his the first federal execution after more than 38 years. Two other federal executions have also been performed since that time -- both for murder crimes.

Source: Findlaw, "Capital Punishment at the Federal Level," accessed July 22, 2015

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