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This came up in comment discussions about analogies in this question.

If I hire an assassin to kill someone, I'm presumably guilty of offenses like murder, conspiracy, and solicitation of murder. Even if the assassin is incompetent and fails to carry it out, the murder charge would be reduced to attempted murder.

But what if I call off the hit and they never go through with it? Is there still an offense, or is it "no harm, no foul"?

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  • related to law.stackexchange.com/questions/88696/… but there may be a more specific answer here for murders in the US
    – alexg
    Jan 10 at 16:41
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    Note that this is not quite exactly the equivalent case to the "essay for hire" case. The reason is that the commissioned work in the case of the essay is not a crime at all. Only using it, let alone handing it in as one's own is one. But that's a distinct act. The commissioned work of murdering someone, by contrast, is clearly a crime. Therefore answers like user6726's are valid for the gun but not for the pen. Jan 11 at 0:34
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica It was another commenter (Nuclear Hoagie) who was making the analogy that simply purchasing the essay was analogous to atttempted murder, not the answer itself.
    – Barmar
    Jan 11 at 0:38
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    As an aside, people of a certain age will think that Kaursmäki's I hired a Contract Killer must be mentioned :-). Jan 11 at 1:48
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica I suggested that purchasing an essay with the intent to hand it in as one's own, but only failing to do so because the quality of the work was so poor, may still be a form of academic misconduct. It may be more akin to "conspiracy to commit murder" than "attempted murder". Agree there can be shades of difference, but both situations involve planning a disallowed act and taking overt steps toward actually doing it, despite stopping short of the final act. Jan 11 at 15:05

2 Answers 2

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Here is the case of Michael Musbach, who hired a hitman over the internet on a murder-for-hire website, paying him $20,000 to kill his target. When he was asked to make additional payments, he sought to cancel the contract and get a refund, at which point the "hitman" revealed the whole site was a scam and sent his information to the authorities. Even though Musbach never actually hired a real hitman, and sought to cancel the hit before any damage was done, he was found guilty of "knowingly and intentionally using... a facility of interstate and foreign commerce with the intent that a murder be committed."

The use of the internet made this an interstate federal crime, but Musbach's actions based on the mere intent to arrange a murder was sufficient convict him, regardless of whether he was successful or later thought better of it. Other statutes may apply when hiring a local hitman.

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    Since this isn't mentioned in the link, was the website operator committing a crime? Is it a crime to take money for a contract killing you have no intention of carrying out?
    – MJeffryes
    Jan 11 at 15:23
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    @MJeffryes I expect it's at least some type of fraud, unless it's an official government-sponsored sting operation. There might also be something for enticing Michael into attempting a crime, but I don't know what the legal terms for that are. That's all for the fake hitman, who might not be the same as the website operator, though. If the fake hitman was just another user of the website, then the website operator might be in the clear.
    – Douglas
    Jan 11 at 16:12
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    @MJeffryes I believe there is one site which is meant as a parody, but some people believe it is true, and still try to engage them to perform hits. Here is a description of the site I mean.
    – Peter M
    Jan 11 at 17:01
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    If this is the site I think it is, (the parody site mentioned by Peter M above) the site owner has a strict policy of passing serious inquiries on to law enforcement, and has played a role in bringing quite a few would-be murderers to justice. It might still technically be illegal (I really don't know if it is) but it seems to be viewed as a useful way to catch criminals by law enforcement, so prosecution is unlikely. Jan 11 at 17:54
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    IANAL but I would guess with some confidence that at some point conspiracy charges could be applied also. Jan 12 at 1:06
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In Washington, this violates RCW 9A.28.030(1)

A person is guilty of criminal solicitation when, with intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime, he or she offers to give or gives money or other thing of value to another to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such crime or which would establish complicity of such other person in its commission or attempted commission had such crime been attempted or committed.

This is a Class A felony, as is actual first degree murder. Calling off the hit could enter into mitigating circumstances for sentencing.

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  • If the hitman came to you, proposed a deal where they only got paid after the fact, to which you agreed but then cancelled... would this answer change? Jan 11 at 8:50
  • @ScottishTapWater The date/time of payment does not change the fact that payment is offered. Jan 11 at 14:35
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    I think "criminal solicitation" is a good general answer to the question. It may be called something else in other states, but the idea is the same. It also covers lesser crimes than murder.
    – Wastrel
    Jan 11 at 14:50
  • @Wastrel It is a good answer. Why don't you write it as an Official Answer?
    – trlkly
    Jan 12 at 2:10
  • @trikly Because I think that it would be better for user6726 to expand his answer. I would only be retreading the same turf.
    – Wastrel
    Jan 12 at 15:50

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