Murder & Manslaughter Offences

Murder & Manslaughter Offences

The crimes of murder and manslaughter are the most serious criminal accusations you can face. Upon conviction, these charges attract the harshest criminal penalty available: life imprisonment.

Because of the nature of murder and manslaughter charges, they are subject to rigorous prosecution. Murder and manslaughter cases often involve highly detailed investigations, large amounts of evidence, many protocols and procedures, and often a complex and lengthy criminal trial.

Manslaughter versus Murder

Homicide involves any situation where one person has caused the death of another person. However, homicide is divided into two types:

  • Culpable.
  • Non-culpable.

Non-culpable homicide involves a person’s death that is not the fault of anyone (for example, causing death as a result of acting in self-defence). Homicide that is not culpable is not an offence and is not subject to prosecution. On the other hand, culpable homicide is a crime and consists of any one of the following:

  • Murder.
  • Manslaughter.
  • Infanticide (involving the relatively rare situation where a mother kills a newborn child in certain circumstances).

There are numerous ways a person can cause the death of someone in a manner that constitutes culpable homicide. The more common of these include:

  • By means of an unlawful act.
  • By criminal negligence.

There are other relatively uncommon categories of culpable homicide, involving threatening or deceiving a person to do something that causes their own death, or willfully frightening a person so that his or her death is caused.

Murder

The definition of murder is complex and is set out in detail by the Criminal Code. Any culpable homicide is murder if you cause the death of a human being, and:

  • You mean to do so, or
  • You mean to cause bodily harm to a person that you know is likely to cause his or her death, and you are reckless as to whether the person’s death ensues or not. 

You can also be found guilty in certain circumstances if you engage in conduct that you know or ought to have known is likely to cause the person’s death.

First Degree Murder

Murder is considered “first degree” murder when it is any of the following:

  • Planned and deliberate.
  • Committed under a contract or other arrangement.
  • Involving the murder of a peace officer or prison worker acting in the course of his or her duty. 

The threshold for first degree murder is also met if the murder occurs in the course of committing certain other offences, including (but not limited to):

  • Sexual assault.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Hijacking or hostage-taking.
  • Terrorism.
  • Intimidation.
  • Certain gang-related activities.

Second Degree Murder & Manslaughter 

The offences in this category are essentially defined by exclusion, namely:

  • Any murder that is not first degree is automatically labelled a second degree murder.
  • Any homicide that does not meet the definition of murder or infanticide automatically constitutes manslaughter.

Proof of the Offences – Murder & Manslaughter

Of all Criminal Code offences, homicide-related charges are arguably the most complicated, and depend on the proper gathering, handling and interpretation of evidence. These kinds of cases usually generate enormous amounts of physical evidence (including DNA and other forensic evidence), police investigative notes, witness statements, and video evidence. 

The crown must prove all elements of a homicide offence. Depending on the type of homicide charge, there are different degrees of causation. Causation is a legal concept and must be proven in any homicide charge. It is generally considered to be the likelihood your actions directly contributed to the death of the other person. For all categories of homicide offences, the minimum test is that your conduct must be a significant contributing cause of the other person’s death. 

Potential Penalties – Murder & Manslaughter 

Both first and second-degree murder attract the same maximum penalty: life in prison. However, these two categories of murder feature distinctions in terms of how long you must serve before you become eligible for supervised release from jail on parole. 

If you are convicted of first-degree murder, then the minimum period of parole ineligibility is 25 years; for second degree murder, the minimum is 10 years for a single conviction. 

If you have previously committed murder and are subsequently convicted of second-degree murder, then your parole ineligibility period is 25 years. There are also special sentencing provisions that govern multiple murder offences.

For manslaughter there is no minimum penalty, however the maximum penalty is also life in prison. There is a mandatory minimum penalty of 4 years – that applies only if the manslaughter was committed with a firearm.

Needless to say, homicide trials are complicated and high stakes matters. 

If you have been charged, you will be up against a team of police, special investigators, and a specialized team of crown prosecutors.

Meanwhile, you may face detention while awaiting your trial. I have been successful in obtaining bail (judicial interim release) for clients facing murder and manslaughter charges.

Regardless of whether you are later found innocent or guilty, your life, gainful employment, and family relationships and friendships will be impacted until the charges are dealt with. Homicide cases often take years to get to trial; meanwhile the police may continue their investigation. The police may obtain additional evidence from witnesses, surveillance, wiretaps, and even jailhouse informants.

If you are mounting a proper defence to a homicide charge, it is imperative that you choose a lawyer like me, who has experience and expertise in this specific area. I can provide you with legal guidance, understanding, and competent representation through this difficult time. 

Choosing Legal Representation – Murder & Manslaughter 

Homicide cases are serious, intense, and emotionally charged. They are also legally intricate, and oftentimes long and gruelling. 

In the face of your homicide charge, the best strategy is to retain a lawyer who is experienced, tough-minded, and willing to aggressively defend you. You need a lawyer who is not only experienced in these kinds of cases, but one who can also organize, evaluate, analyze, and dissect a large and diverse set of evidence, in order to optimally prepare. 

Murder and manslaughter are the most serious crimes in Canada. A conviction for either of these will automatically result in a significant period of imprisonment. If you are facing a charge of murder or manslaughter, I have the experience, legal skill, and dedication to help you navigate through this difficult, stressful and potentially life-changing process. 

Give me a call