Methods of Execution

Lethal injection is the most widely-used method of execution, but states still authorize other methods, including electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad.


The primary means of execution in the U.S. have been hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection. The Supreme Court has never found a method of execution to be unconstitutional, though some methods have been declared unconstitutional by state courts. The predominance of lethal injection as the preferred means of execution in all states in the modern era may have put off any judgment by the Court regarding older methods.

Because of a resistance by drug manufacturers to provide the drugs typically used in lethal injections, some states now allow the use of alternative methods if lethal injection cannot be performed. Controversies surrounding the method to be used have delayed executions in many states, contributing to an overall decline in the use of the death penalty.

Authorized Methods

NOTE: [Brackets] around a state indicate that the state authorizes the listed method as an alternative method if other methods are found to be unconstitutional or are unavailable/impractical. Click on the state to obtain specific information about the methods authorized.

Method# of executions by method since 1976# of states authorizing methodJurisdictions that Authorize

Lethal Injection


31 states+ and U.S. Military and U.S. Gov’t

+includes 4 states that no longer have an active death penalty

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado^, Delaware,* Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire,** North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington*, Wyoming, U.S. Military, U.S. Government

^Colorado abolished the death penalty prospectively on March 23, 2020, and those on death row at that time had their sentences commuted. Lethal injection could only still apply if someone capitally charged before July 1, 2020 is sentenced to death.

* Delaware and Washington have declared their capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional and have resentenced all death-row prisoners to life without parole.

**New Hampshire abolished the death penalty but the repeal may not apply retroactively, leaving a prisoner on death row facing possible execution.

To find the drug protocols used by states, see State-by-State Lethal Injection.



8 states (all have lethal injection as primary method).

[Alabama], [Arkansas], Florida, Kentucky, [Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [South Carolina], [Tennessee]

The supreme courts of Georgia (2001) and Nebraska (2008) have ruled that the use of the electric chair violates their state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Lethal Gas


7 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

[Alabama], Arizona, California, [Mississippi], Missouri, [Oklahoma], [Wyoming]



3 states* (all have lethal injection as primary method)

*Includes one state that no longer has an active death penalty statute.

Delaware, [New Hampshire],** Washington

**New Hampshire abolished the death penalty but the repeal may not apply retroactively, leaving a prisoner on death row facing possible execution. Courts in Delaware and Washington struck down the states’ death penalty statutes and applied those rulings to all prisoners on the states’ death rows.

Firing Squad


3 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

[Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [Utah]