Attempt Murder Charges in Canada Explained

May 31, 2021

If you have been charged with attempt murder in Canada, it is important to seek legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. The consequences of a conviction can be severe, and you need an experienced criminal lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights. This blog post will provide some of criminal law surrounding attempt murder charges in Canada, and will give you a better understanding of what to expect during your case.

Contact our office today for a consultation. We will review the details of your case and provide legal advice on the best course of action. Remember, anything you say can be used against you in court, so do not speak to the police without first speaking to a trusted criminal lawyer.

Legal Definition of Attempted Murder in Canada

Simply stated, attempted murder is the failed attempt to commit murder. Like 1st and 2nd degree murder, the Crown is required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a specific intention to murder another person as well as the means and that some direct action had been taken to commit said murder. 

Attempted Murder is a straight indictable offence where the accused must have commenced at least one of a series of acts intended to result in death of another person. According to the criminal code, it includes:  

  • Section 239 Every person who attempts by any means to commit murder is guilty of an indictable offence and liable. 

Examples of Attempt Murder

You do not need to intend to commit the murder of a specific person to be charged with attempt murder, but instead, the charge is based on if you intended to commit the actions of the offence. Firing a loaded gun into a crowd of people can be considered attempted murder even if you are not aiming at a specific person. In some cases, depending on the circumstances, pointing a firearm at someone could be enough to charge you with attempted murder.

To be found guilty of attempted murder charges, the Crown must prove that there was a specific intent to commit murder and at least one step taken in the attempt beyond preparation. It can be challenging for the Crown to prove that someone intended to kill another person.

Bail for Murder Charges Toronto

Attempt Murder is a serious offence that requires experienced criminal defence counsel.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors & Sentencing Guidelines in Attempt Murder Charges

Attempted murder is a serious indictable offence and comes with severe consequences. If a firearm is used in committing the crime or the accused is involved with a criminal organization, there are harsher penalties for sentencing in attempted murder. 

The maximum punishment for attempted murder is imprisonment for life. 

There are mandatory minimum sentences of: 

  • five years minimum for the first offence of attempted murder when a prohibited firearm is used
  • seven years minimum punishment of imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence
  • five year minimum if you are in association with a criminal organization
  • four years minimum punishment of imprisonment when using a restricted firearm or prohibited firearm

Legal Defences and Considerations

  • Intent to Kill: To be convicted of attempted murder, the Crown must prove that the accused had the specific intent to kill. It is not enough to show that the accused committed bodily harm that was likely to cause another person’s death or was reckless, as in a murder trial. 
  • Provocation: Provocation only applies to murder offences, but if the provocation caused the accused to have a mental state where they were unaware or unable to have the specific intent to kill, it could be used to defend an attempted murder charge.
  • Self-Defence: self-defence is also a legal defence in cases of attempted murder. According to the criminal code
  • 34 (1) A person is not guilty of an offence if
    • (a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
    • (b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
    • (c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.

Can You Be Convicted on Circumstantial Evidence?

Challenge of the Investigation Leading to Arrest

Attempted murder charges are a very serious, and will certainly involve a thorough police investigation. This police investigation will include witness statements, documenting the scene, surveillance videos, cellular phone records and gathering DNA and other forensic evidence. 

If police are able to gather enough evidence, they will  attempt murder charges against the suspect. An experienced criminal defence lawyer can help during this initial investigation and help review the Crown’s case to determine the best legal defences. 

If you are facing charges of attempted murder, and the prospect of imprisonment for life, you need the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with over 15 years of experience defending clients in Toronto. Contact Willam Jaksa today for a consultation on your case.

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