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Can You Claim Self-Defence in a Murder Trial?

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There are several unfortunate examples of people defending their spouses, children, parents, and homes with deadly force and finding themselves charged with murder. Whether stabbing, shooting, or striking an assailant, if it leads to death, it may be ruled as murder or homicide.

Canada has self-defence laws but lacks a ‘castle doctrine,’ the legal defence used in the USA to defend one’s home from attack or invasion.

Provided that the self-defence methods are considered justifiable given the circumstances, a defendant can avoid criminal culpability for a murder charge. However, various criteria must be met for the self-defence strategy to prove successful.

What Does Canadian Law Say About Shooting Home Invaders?

Canada and the USA are closely tied in many ways, including similar laws. But while the U.S. has loose gun laws and different variations of the ‘stand-your-ground’ law, Canada has some notable differences. Not only does Canadian law have stricter firearm regulations in place, but we also have stricter laws pertaining to their use.

Does a Canadian homeowner have the right to fire upon a home intruder?

Home invasion is one of the most traumatic criminal events that some of us may ever face. Faced with the terrifying prospect of bodily harm, theft, and hostage-taking, it’s understandable that home residents may wish to defend themselves by any means necessary. A gun owner may consider whether they should shoot the intruders.

The answer to the question depends on a case-by-case basis. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the dilemma. Police have to believe that the response was not proportional to the criminal offense of home invasion to charge the homeowner with a crime.

To be safe, attempt to de-escalate the situation or scare away home invaders first before utilizing deadly force.

What Does ‘Proportional’ Response Mean in Self-Defence Cases?

A person must have a reasonable fear that their life may be in danger or that they risk serious bodily harm if they do nothing to prevent an attack. A person does not actually have to suffer harm in order to act in self-defence, provided that the threat of harm is serious and imminent.

However, the action of self-defence must be proportional with the threat.

This means that, in addition to having a reasonable fear of bodily harm befalling oneself or another innocent person, the action they respond with must be reasonable. For example, if a group of assailants attack a person but only one of them is armed with a deadly weapon, using deadly force to disarm that one attacker may be justified but it is disproportionate to use deadly force against the unarmed persons.

Reasonable force may be determined by:

  •  Differences in size, age, gender, and physical capabilities between the parties.
  •  History of violence which is known to the party under threat.
  •  Immediate threat of deadly force.
  •  Nature of the threat.
  •  The role of the defendant in the incident.

Is Self-Defence a Credible Defence Strategy in Murder Cases?

Not only is arguing self-defence a credible strategy but sometimes it is the only criminal defence strategy available to a defendant. That’s not to say that it will be an easy trial, however. A murder case is often met with aggressive prosecution as they seek to make an example of the defendants’ use of deadly force. An experienced criminal defence lawyer is a defendant’s greatest hope for escaping murder charges.

Do not dismiss the charges against you because you are confident that you were in the right. If the police have charged you with a criminal offence, it is because they believe they can reach a conviction. Consult a lawyer without delay.

Request a Case Evaluation with an Experienced Murder Trial Lawyer Today

If you’re facing murder charges for defending yourself, your loved ones, or your home, you must speak with a criminal defence lawyer immediately.

William Jaksa Criminal Litigation provides honest, no-nonsense legal representation to clients facing criminal legal issues in Toronto. To schedule a consultation with the lawyer, please get in touch with our law offices at 647-951-8078.

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