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A murder charge is perhaps the most serious charge in the Criminal Code of Canada, carrying a possible sentence of life imprisonment. The law surrounding homicides can also be the most complicated and nuanced area of criminal law. The subtle and slightest differences in the evidence and facts surrounding murder cases could mean the difference between guilty and not guilty or the difference between a 12-year sentence and a life sentence. A criminal lawyer in Toronto that handles murder charges will be able to explain the subtleties in the law around murder and manslaughter and the evidence the Crown needs to prove a culpable homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.

Being charged with murder is a scary and confusing time for an accused person and their family. Clients facing murder or manslaughter-related charges deserve a criminal defence lawyer that will carefully and diligently represent them. A defence lawyer with extensive experience conducting homicide trials that will be able to provide the defendant with trusted and experienced legal advice and advocacy that will help get the best possible results.


A homicide is when one person intentionally causes the death of another, either directly or indirectly. It becomes murder or manslaughter if the act that caused the death was an unlawful action either by criminal negligence or through violence. A culpable homicide, where the person commits a criminal act, can be first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter.

First-degree murder is defined as “planned and deliberate”. It means that there was an intentional plan to cause death of another person, that the murder is planned. The plan to commit murder does not need to be complicated or sophisticated. Further, a homicide can be considered first-degree murder if committed during the course of another crime, such as a sexual assault or kidnapping, if there was forcible confinement involving the victim, or if the victim was a police officer or peace officer.

A conviction for first-degree murder automatically carries a term of sentence of jail for life with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. If you have been accused or are under investigation for murder, you need to contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer with experience with handling homicide charges in Toronto.


The differences between first-degree and second-degree murder can be found in the classification of homicide charges in Canada is outlined in section 231 of the criminal code. It very simply states that all murder in Canada is either first-degree murder or second-degree murder. That the killing is considered first-degree murder when it is planned and deliberate and that all murder is second-degree murder.

Second-degree murder includes all intentional homicides that do not fall under the specific categories of first-degree murder. This means the murder occurs when it’s an intentional killing but was not planned and did not happen during another serious offence, such as a sexual assault or a hostage-taking. As set out in the criminal code, a conviction for second-degree murder also carries an automatic life sentence, with a minimum jail sentence of 10 years or more before the offender is eligible for parole. Their parole eligibility will depend on the aggravating features of the case.

There are several complete and partial defences to culpable murder. Self-defence is a common defence to murder, that if believed, is an absolute defence. Other partial defences include intoxication and the defence of provocation. Which, if believed, could result in a murder charge being reduced to manslaughter.

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Manslaughter charges are laid when there is no intent to kill. The Criminal Code defines culpable homicide that is not murder or infanticide as manslaughter. There may have been an intention to cause bodily harm, but there was no plan or deliberate intent to cause death. A murder charges lawyer can help explain to a judge and the jury how their client did not intend to kill the victim or that death was unintentional. If the death resulted out of the heat of passion, which was caused by a sudden provocation, it might result in a murder charge being reduced to manslaughter.

Manslaughter is commonly categorized as a death that was caused by an unlawful act or criminal negligence. When a crime is committed that unintentionally causes death, it can be considered an unlawful act. Often seen in the course of an assault that leads to death, while criminal negligence is when a person fails to act or acts in a manner that shows a reckless disregard for the lives of others. It is an act that would have been foreseen as endangering life, more than merely causing bodily harm.

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Attempt murder is an intentional attempt to commit the act of killing another person. The person’s actions must go beyond planning and preparing, and they must have made an effort towards the murder without causing death. They must have formed the specific intent to kill a person and actually tried to kill that person. The punishment upon conviction for an attempted murder starts at the minimum range of four years if there were aggravating factors such as firearms used or connections to a criminal organization present. Also, if found guilty and upon conviction, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.


The criminal charge of accessory after the fact to murder applies to any person who knowingly assists a person who causes the death of another. In addition, the person must know that they are helping a person who has committed a culpable homicide and are assisting them to escape arrest.

That assistance can be rendered by giving the murder suspect information or aid by hiding the murder suspect or by concealing evidence from the police. Or perhaps the most common way that assistance is given is by giving false information to the police or helping establish a false alibi.

After the fact, an accessory after the fact is different from an accessory or party to the offence.

Experienced Criminal Lawyers for Murder Charges in Toronto

If you are charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter, it is crucial to have an experienced Toronto murder lawyer who has extensive experience dealing with murder trials. The penalties for first and second-degree murder can be very different, and it’s essential to have a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who understands the nuances of the criminal law working on your case. No criminal offence related to homicide should be taken lightly. Contact us today if you need legal assistance with first or second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Contact William Jaksa, an experienced Toronto criminal lawyer, at phone number 647-951-8078 for a free consultation.