How Canadian Law Views First-Degree Murder, Second-Degree Murder & Manslaughter | Homicide Lawyer Newmarket

Homicide and manslaughter are some of the most significant crimes in Canada and are viewed with the utmost severity. If you are facing such charges, don’t leave your future up to chance. Turn to Semyonov Law, a trusted and experienced homicide defence lawyer in Newmarket

In this article, we talk about the main distinction between 1st- and 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter and what the respective sentences are. 



What is first-degree murder? When the homicide is premeditated, i.e. it is deliberate and planned, te murder will be ruled as first-degree. Such types of crimes typically include;

  • Contract killing
  • Taking the life of a prison employee or on-duty cop (even if this isn’t planned/deliberate)
  • Murder that takes place during an assault, hijacking, a hostage situation, kidnapping, terroristic act
  • Murder that takes place along with intimidating, criminal harassment or on behalf of a criminal group

What is the difference between culpable and non-culpable homicide? The former is a ruling in which the accused is held legally responsible for an intentional or unintentional death. The latter is when the accused is not help legally responsible as the death occurred as a result of self-defence. 

Prison Sentence

The Crown does now allow for capital punishment. A person convicted of this crime usually gets about 25 years to life. 


What is second-degree murder? This is characterized by a deliberate killing (not planned) of an individual. That means, if a person intends to kill someone but does not plan it out, it falls under the purview of second-degree murder. It does not fall under any of the categories of first-degree murder. 

Prison Sentence

The minimum sentence is life imprisonment, without being eligible for parole for the first 10 years. Alternatively, sentences may include no parole for the first 25 years. 

Theoretically, it is easy to point out the differences between first-degree and second-degree murder. In real life, however, there are often a lot of gray areas depending on the evidence available. If you have been charged with a crime of this nature, it’s safest to contact a criminal defence lawyer like Semyonov Law to ensure that your case is as strong as possible and there is no misrepresentation of the facts. 



What is manslaughter? This is a homicide that was done without an intent to kill but with an intent to harm. 

Unlawful Act vs Criminal Negligence

An unlawful act is when the homicide occurs as a result of a crime that was unintentional, eg. when somebody recklessly fires a gun in public and ends up killing a pedestrian. 

Criminal negligence When the murder stemmed from a failure to act and exhibited a wanton disregard for the lives of other people. 

Prison Sentence

There is no minimum sentence, however, if a firearm was involved, then the minimum sentence is 4 years. 



Death caused as a result of impaired driving is viewed as a separate offence by the Crown. If the driving was extremely careless, such as street racing when under the influence, then the charge would be elevated to “criminal negligence causing death” for which the sentence tends to be more severe. 



Apart from the nebulous distinction between the above crimes, the prosecutor often uses certain tactics against the accused to ensure that a conviction is inevitable. 

For instance, police are aware that charging a degree higher than the merits of the crime will compel the accused to plead guilty to a lesser charge. So if they are looking to get a person convicted on a second-degree charge without time, they may charge the person with first-degree murder. 

An experienced criminal defence lawyer sees through these strategies of the prosecution team and knows exactly how to handle them. They will carefully assess your case, pinpoint the strengths and determine how these can be used to get you the justice you deserve. 


Charged With Homicide? Time is of the Essence!

Contact Semyonov Law Today to Strengthen Your Case

Semyonov Law fights for justice on your behalf. If you have been convicted of a crime you did not commit, our criminal defence lawyers will gather information from the case to prove your innocence. If you have committed the crime, they work to lessen the severity of the sentence. 

Call us at (647) 292-3377 to get the justice you deserve.