Homicide offences are among some of the most serious offences in the Canadian criminal law. Under the homicide umbrella are the offences of murder, including first-degree murder and second-degree murder, and the offence of manslaughter. The possible criminal sanctions upon conviction for homicide offences are very severe, and most include maximum penalties of life imprisonment. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with murder or manslaughter, you need the immediate assistance of a specialized criminal lawyer who has experience defending these offences.
At LawyerSelect.ca, we'll work tirelessly to find the best Toronto Murder Lawyer for your particular case. Not only will we ensure that they have the requisite experience, but we'll also ensure that they meet your specific needs. Whether it's location, or language, or gender, or cost, a LawyerSelect.ca client specialist will ensure you're paired with the right Toronto Murder Lawyer.
Before discussing the various offences that fall under the homicide umbrella, let's review what a homicide is. Simply put, homicide refers to the direct or indirect taking of someone's life. This includes first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, and infanticide. The reason there are several homicide offences is because the Canadian criminal law recognizes that there are degrees of culpability in the taking of someone's life. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with homicide, don't wait! Get in touch with a LawyerSelect.ca client specialist who can help you during this very difficult time. They'll help you find the right Toronto Murder Lawyer for your matter.
The offence of first-degree murder refers to a murder that was both planned and deliberate. The murder is "planned" if it was conceived of or concocted before the time that it was actually carried out. The murder is "deliberate" if the actions of the accused were intended and purposeful. What's important to note here is that the murder plan doesn't have to be a complicated scheme, and the length of deliberation doesn't have to be long. So long as the plan to kill was conceived of before the murder, and at some point after the plan was deliberately put into action, then the offence of first-degree murder is made out. The murder plan must be successful, otherwise the offence is one of attempted murder, not first-degree murder.
First-Degree Murder Without Planning and Deliberation:
There are two scenarios where a murder that lacks planning and deliberation can be classified as first-degree murder.
The Canadian criminal law defines second-degree murder as any murder which is not first-degree murder. Under the current definition of the law, a homicide will amount to murder if the accused intended to kill the victim, or cause them grievous bodily harm. So essentially, the offence of second-degree murder acts as a catch-all offence for any intentional murder, but which doesn't fall under any of the first-degree murder provisions.
The Canadian criminal law defines manslaughter as any culpable homicide that is not murder. And since the law defines murder to be the intentional killing of a person, then any homicide that's committed without the intent to kill is manslaughter. Like murder, manslaughter is also categorized based on he degree of culpability. The most commonly known types of manslaughter are unlawful act manslaughter, and manslaughter as a result of criminal negligence.
The Criminal Code defines unlawful act manslaughter to be where an accused engages in an illegal activity which leads to the unintentional death of the victim. An example of this would be where the accused assaults the victim (illegal activity - assault) which causes them to die. The accused didn't intend to kill the victim, but merely to assault them.
Similarly, the Canadian criminal law defines manslaughter due to criminal negligence to be where the accused's act or omission was a "marked departure" from the standard of behaviour expected from a reasonable person who was in similar circumstances to the accused. The offence also requires that death or bodily harm to the victim was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the accused's act or omission.
It is important to note here that in certain scenarios, an omission alone can result in criminal negligence causing death if the law imposes a positive duty on the accused to take a certain action in a particular circumstance, and the accused fails to do so. A a common example of this is where a parent fails to take proper care of their child, which results in the child's death. What's determinative for this offence is whether the law imposed a positive duty on the accused to take a certain action, which the failed to do. If you, or someone you know, is facing murder or manslaughter charges, don't wait! Get in touch with a LawyerSelect.ca client specialist who will comb through all Toronto Murder Lawyers to find you the best match.
The full spectrum of defences that may be used by a Toronto Murder Lawyer are too numerous and broad to outline fully in this article. Instead, we'll review the more common defences used at a homicide trial.
The Canadian criminal law recognizes that, when provoked, people are likely to react more aggressively than they typically would. So, for example, an accused who is provoked by the victim and commits a murder in the heat of passion, may have their charge reduced to manslaughter, despite the fact that the killing was intentional. This is because the law recognizes that provocation may deprive a regular person of their self-control, and as such, they could not have formed the intent to kill.
Intoxication, whether by drugs or alcohol, which affects the accused's ability to form the necessary intention, may result in the downgrading of a murder charge to one of manslaughter.
If the accused causes the death of the victim as a result of self-defence, then he or she may have a full defence to a homicide charge. It is important to note off hand that self-defence includes defending oneself, as well as one's friends or family.
At LawyerSelect.ca, we'll carefully analyze your homicide case and pinpoint the existence of possible defences, which will in turn help narrow the number of Toronto Murder Lawyers who are suited to defend your matter.
Despite the fact that the law separates the different types of homicide based on the level of blameworthiness of the accused, all homicide offences carry severe penalties upon conviction. In addition, there's a high likelihood that the accused will remain confined in jail while their matter awaits trial. If they secure release on bail, they'll likely have very stringent bail conditions limiting their movement and association.
An accused who is convicted of either first-degree or second-degree murder will automatically receive a sentence of life imprisonment. The difference in sentence between the two offences comes in the form of parole eligibility. For those convicted of first-degree murder, they won't be eligible for parole until 25 years of their life sentence has elapsed. For those convicted of second-degree murder, they typically won't be eligible for parole until 10 years of their life sentence has elapsed. However, the trial judge retains discretion to increase the period of parole ineligibility to up to 25 years.
An accused who is convicted of manslaughter faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. However, the maximum sentence is typically not imposed unless the existence of multiple aggravating circumstances requires it. Where the accused used a firearm in the commission of the manslaughter, the law stipulates a minimum sentence of 4 years imprisonment. This means that the trial judge does not have discretion to impose anything less than 4 years. In all other cases of manslaughter, the trial judge retains absolute discretion with respect to sentence length.
It goes without saying that these are very serious charges. You should never accept a plea deal from the Crown Attorney, or plead guilty, or represent yourself. Your case will benefit greatly from the experience of a Toronto Murder Lawyer. At LawyerSelect.ca, we know which criminal lawyers specialize in homicide trials, and we'll make sure you find the right one based on your needs and capabilities.