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bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      House Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations
      House Committee on Armed Services
    IntroducedDecember 12th, 2013

What is it?

H.R. 3741 would remove the death penalty as an option for punishment when trying major federal offenses, including (but not limited to) several categories of murder including the assassination or kidnapping of a vice president, president, or member of Congress. The death penalty would also be banned as punishment for crimes against the government like treason and espionage).

Other federal offenses that people under this legislation would not be punished with the death penalty for: 

  • use of a weapon of mass destruction, 
  • murder via torture, 
  • child abuse, 
  • war crimes, 
  • aircraft hijackings, 
  • sexual abuse, 
  • bank robberies or the willful wrecking of a train, 
  • using chemical or biological materials to kill
  • the death or injury of an unborn child 
  • death of state or local law enforcement officials, 
  • using the mail to kill, 
  • kidnapping and killing people to stop them from testifying in court, 
  • the use of firearms or armor piercing ammunition during any crime of violence.

The list goes on. Currently the death penalty can be used in 32 states in the U.S. H.R. 3741 specifically protects those who would otherwise be put to death for federal offenses, and instead reduces their sentence to a lifetime prison sentence without parole.


Inmates on death row, people on trial for serious crimes, their families, taxpayers, U.S. prisons, and people who administer lethal drugs or flip the switch during executions, the Department of Justice.


A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In Depth:

Sponsoring Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) in her support of H.R. 3741 cites research that shows that the death penalty does not deter criminal activity. Edwards has also argued that the death penalty is “racially and socioeconomically biased,” and an obstacle in the U.S.'s “fight for human rights in the international community.” 

She and other supporters of this bill have called it “fiscally irresponsible.” For example, a recent study found that changing death penalty sentences in California to life in prison without parole would save the state $5 billion over 20 years.  

On the other hand, this bill would severely limit the U.S.’s ability to punish serious offenders. Critics note, most drastically, that the bill would prevent the Death Penalty from applying to a person who killed the President or Vice President. Citing the immense scope of the bill, critics highlight the potential lack of punishment, in the absence of the Death Penalty, for people sentenced with using biological weapons, torture, and war crimes.


Sponsoring Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) Sponsored Legislation Explanations 

The Hill (against)

NAACP (in favor)

BBC (context)

(Photo Credit: Flickr user RobinAKirk)


Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2013

Official Title

To abolish the death penalty under Federal law.