1st & 2nd-Degree Murder Explained by Top Brampton Criminal Lawyer
As defined by Canada’s Criminal Code, murder is when a person causes the death of another or causes bodily harm knowing it could cause death. It is one of the most severe offences and Canadian law is designed to provide justice to the victim’s family. It also comes with far-reaching consequences for the accused.
But murder charges depend on many factors, including the circumstances, the accused’s intent, and the way the murder was committed. That’s why a murder charge can be more complicated than it appears.
The Criminal Code of Canada distinguishes between justifiable, accidental, and culpable homicides. Death is deemed a culpable homicide if there is blame to be assigned.
This post provides an overview of murder offences, highlighting the differences between first- and second-degree murders, as explained by a top criminal lawyer in Brampton.
What Is the Difference Between 1st & 2nd-Degree Murder?
Under section 222(1), a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, they cause the death of a human being. Homicide can be culpable or not culpable. First-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter are all forms of culpable homicide. A homicide that is not culpable is not an offence.
The Criminal Code of Canada defines culpable homicide as:
- By means of an illegal act.
- By criminal negligence.
- By causing someone to do anything that causes their death through threats, fear of violence, or deception.
- By wilfully frightening that human being, in the case of a child or sick person.
The primary difference between first and second-degree murder is intent. If, for example, the accused demonstrated intent to kill the deceased, it would be prosecuted as a murder offence. A homicide that is both planned and deliberate is considered 1st-degree murder. An unplanned intentional killing, such as reacting in the heat of the moment when angry or a death caused by a reckless disregard for human life, is a 2nd-degree offence.
Here, we discuss the key differences between the two – and how a murder lawyer can help.
What Is 1st-Degree Murder?
The main factors that distinguish 1st-degree murder from other kinds are intent to kill, premeditation, and deliberation. An example of a 1st-degree murder is a contract killing.
Under special circumstances, the act of murder is planned and committed in a cruel way against one or more people. Special circumstances may include offences like robbery, terrorism, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and hijacking with the intention of financial gain. Assault on pregnant women and the killing of on-duty government officials or prison employees are automatically considered first-degree murder.
Further, a homicide that happens in the context of a domestic assault is not automatically considered first-degree murder. It can certainly be a first-degree murder if it was planned and deliberate, but solely being a domestic assault does not elevate it to first degree. The charges can be considered more severe if the person committing the offence has committed such a crime before.
The Sentence for 1st-Degree Murder
According to 235(1), everyone who commits first-degree murder is guilty of an indictable offence and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life, with parole eligibility after 25 years.
If offenders have multiple murder offences, they may receive consecutive sentences where they are ineligible for parole. When offenders are released on parole, they remain on parole for the remainder of their lives and must meet certain conditions or risk returning to prison.
What Is 2nd-Degree Murder?
As per the Criminal Code of Canada, under section 231(7), all murder that is not first-degree murder is second-degree murder. Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder is a deliberate killing that occurs without planning by extremely reckless conduct. The intent is to cause serious bodily harm and can occur on the spur of the moment.
Considered slightly less grave than first-degree murder, it is premeditated murder against someone without the presence of special circumstances. In some countries, it is also defined as unplanned killing due to an accident, like reacting in the heat of the moment when angry.
First-degree murder charges are direct and straightforward under Canadian law. These offences are carried out by an individual who has planned, conspired, or shown an obvious long-term intention to murder another person. This is not the same when it comes to second-degree murder. That’s why trying to defend the accused’s intention can be a challenge and should only be done with the support of an experienced 2nd-degree murder lawyer.
The Sentence for 2nd-Degree Murder
Second-degree murders carry a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
No one should face a murder charge alone. Murder trials are extremely difficult to challenge due to the sensitivity of the case and limited evidence. But having a top criminal lawyer in Brampton by your side can make all the difference to a successful defence. So, contact the best first or second-degree murder lawyer who can fight for you by building the best defence.