Oct 06

What is First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, and Manslaughter?

Murder as defined by section 229 of the Criminal Code, is when a “person who causes the death of a human being means to cause his death or means to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death and is reckless whether death ensues or not.”

What is First Degree Murder?

s. 231(2) of the Criminal Code classifies murder as first-degree if it is planned and deliberate. The Criminal Code also defined other circumstances wherein a murder would constitute first-degree murder. Murder will be first-degree when the victim is one of the following people:

  1. A police officer, police constable, constable, sheriff, deputy sheriff, sheriff officer or another person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace, acting in the course of his duties;
  2. A warden, deputy warden, instructor, keeper, jailor, guard or other officer or a permanent employee of a prison, acting in the course of his duties; or
  3. A person working in a prison with the permission of the prison authorities acting in the course of his work therein.

Further, if a murder occurs while one of the specified offences listed in s. 231(5) of the Criminal Code is being committed, it is deemed to be first-degree murder:

  1. Hijacking an aircraft;
  2. Sexual assault;
  3. Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm;
  4. Aggravated sexual assault;
  5. Kidnapping and forcible confinement; or
  6. Hostage-taking.

What is Second Degree Murder?

The Criminal Code defines second-degree murder as all murders which are not first-degree. Second-degree murder occurs without any planning or deliberation.

The classification of first-degree and second-degree murder exists for the purposes of sentencing. Second-degree murder carries a life sentence, without being eligible for parole, at a minimum, for 10 years. The parole eligibility time period can range between 10 to 25 years for someone convicted of second-degree murder. However, a first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence, with parole ineligibility of 25 years.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is a form of culpable homicide that is not murder or infanticide. There are two categories of manslaughter: unlawful act manslaughter and criminal negligence.

For unlawful act manslaughter, the unlawful act must be objectively dangerous and be likely to injure another person. To be convicted of manslaughter, the Crown must prove that there was objective foreseeability of the risk of bodily harm which is neither trivial nor transitory in the context of a dangerous act.

For criminal negligence manslaughter, the unlawful act is the result of criminal negligence. Criminal negligence requires the Crown to show that the charged individual acted (or omitted) with a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

There is no minimum sentence that is associated with a manslaughter conviction, unless a firearm is used, in which case, a four-year minimum sentence would apply.

What do I do if I am Charged or Investigated for Murder?

You should contact an experienced counsel to help you understand your rights, and if needed, represent you with your criminal charges. The lawyers of Lockyer Zaduk Zeeh have many years of representing clients’ charges with murder and manslaughter, at trial and on appeal. The lawyers of LZZ have represented individuals charged with murder in almost all jurisdictions in Ontario, such as Fort Erie, Welland, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Brantford.