The Difference Between Manslaughter & Murder

Posted on May 21, 2024

criminal lawyer for murder manslaughter charges

In Ontario, the charges that occur when the death of a person is involved can fall into 3 categories – criminal negligence, manslaughter, or murder/manslaughter. The criminal code distinctly identifies these incidents by culpability. Culpable homicide refers to manslaughter and/or murder. Depending on the details surrounding the crime, the charges and the potential penalties will differ. Both of these are criminal charges, so if you or a loved one has been charged with murder or manslaughter, you should seek representation from an experienced and skilled criminal defence lawyer. Both manslaughter and murder are serious matters and require the expertise and knowledge of a dedicated team. 

Robert Karrass, an award-winning criminal lawyer in the Toronto area, and the Karrass Law team provide strong, thoughtful, and effective representation, putting together the best arguments for your defence to ensure you get the possible outcomes. At Karrass Law, every client is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the charges laid against them. For legal advice from a reputable criminal defence lawyer, contact Karrass Law. 

Here is what you need to know about the difference between manslaughter and murder and how to navigate these charges.

What is Culpable Homicide?

Culpable homicide is an offence in the Canadian Criminal Code that occurs when a person causes the death of another human being. Non-culpable homicide is not an offence, whereas culpable homicide is further defined as death caused by an unlawful act, criminal negligence, forced suicide, or intimidation. One example of non-culpable homicide would be self-defence.

Understanding Murder Charges in Ontario

Murder charges are also broken down into multiple categories - 1st-degree murder and 2nd-degree murder. First-degree murder charges carry more serious penalties, but those charged with either face the possibility of imprisonment if convicted. 

What is First-Degree Murder?

First-degree murder is when the death of a human being is planned, deliberate, or premeditated. This could be murder by your own hands or by organizing a contracted killing – i.e. when money or something of value is traded for the death of another person. This is commonly referred to as “murder-for-hire.” 

While intentionality is one of the main factors that distinguish first-degree murder from second-degree murder and manslaughter, you may face first-degree charges if you are involved in the death of a peace officer, i.e. a member of the police (officer, constable, sheriff, etc.), a warden, guard, or any other person working within a prison or is responsible for the preservation of public peace who is acting within the duties of his job. 

If you were or have been accused of committing another criminal offence, such as sexual assault, terrorism, kidnapping, etc., which resulted in the death of another person, you may also receive first-degree murder charges. There are many situations where the nuances around the person murdered determine whether the death warrants a first-degree murder charge, like criminal harassment, terrorist activity, intimidation, and the involvement of a criminal organization. To understand how your situation fits and to build a strong defence, book a complimentary legal consultation with the experts at Karrass Law. 

What is Second-Degree Murder?

The criminal code states that any murder that is not first-degree murder is second-degree murder. More specifically, any killing that was deliberate but does not fit the criteria for first-degree murder will typically draw a second-degree murder charge from the crown. 

What is Manslaughter?

In Canada, manslaughter is when a homicide occurs without the intent to kill. One of the most common cases of manslaughter is vehicular manslaughter, when a person is recklessly driving or potentially driving under the influence, and a car accident results in the death of another party. In some cases, murder charges can be reduced to manslaughter, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. 

What Penalties are Involved with Homicide

The penalties for each charge vary. While first-degree and second-degree murder are both punishable by life in prison if convicted, those convicted of second-degree murder charges may be eligible for parole at 10 years to 25 years at the discretion of a judge. For voluntary manslaughter, those convicted can face up to life in prison, whereas for involuntary manslaughter, charges typically range from 4 to 8 years in prison. 

Consult with a Highly-Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer

The penalties for both murder and manslaughter charges are serious; as such, it’s important that you seek our representation from a reputable and experienced criminal defence lawyer with a proven track record. Robert Karrass and the team of experts at Karrass Law are dedicated to building strong cases that ensure you get the best results possible. To get started with our team, book a legal consultation today. 

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