Murder, Homicide, and Manslaughter Lawyer in Toronto

Get Legal Representation with Experienced Murder Defence Lawyers in Toronto

In Canada, homicide offences are among the most serious charges one can face, encompassing first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter. These charges carry severe penalties, including the potential for life imprisonment. 

A conviction for murder or manslaughter can be life-altering, affecting every aspect of your future. If you are under investigation or believe you may be charged with a homicide offence, it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately. 

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we are dedicated to providing robust defence strategies tailored to the particulars of your case, aiming to achieve a favourable outcome.

What Is Homicide?

Section 222 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines homicide as the act of causing the death of a human being, either directly or indirectly, by any means. Homicide can be either culpable or not culpable. Non-culpable homicide is not a criminal offence, while culpable homicide includes murder, manslaughter, and infanticide.

According to Subsection 222(5) of the Criminal Code, a person commits culpable homicide when they cause the death of a human being by:

  • An unlawful act,
  • Criminal negligence,
  • Causing the victim to act out of threats, fear of violence, or deception leading to death,
  • Wilfully frightening a child or a sick person resulting in death.

Canadian law recognizes different degrees of culpability within homicide. First-degree murder involves premeditation and planning, second-degree murder involves intentional killing without premeditation, and manslaughter involves unintentional killing due to reckless or negligent actions. Infanticide specifically pertains to the killing of an infant by the mother under certain conditions. This legal framework ensures that the punishment fits the level of intent and responsibility of the offender.

What is First-Degree Murder?

According to s. 231(2) of the Criminal Code, first-degree murder refers to a murder that is both planned and deliberate. A murder is considered planned if it was conceived and thought out before being carried out. For instance, a murder committed in the heat of an argument without prior intention would not be classified as planned. 

First-degree murders are typically premeditated and planned. They can also occur during the commission of other offences, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, killing of a peace officer, or taking a hostage.

A conviction for first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years. In cases of multiple murders, the prosecution may seek consecutive sentences, extending the time before parole eligibility.

What is Second-Degree Murder?

Section 229 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines second-degree murder as a culpable homicide that occurs under specific circumstances. This type of murder involves an intentional killing that is not pre-planned and does not fall under the category of first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder is characterized by an intent to cause death or bodily harm that is likely to result in death, demonstrating recklessness as to whether death ensues. It also covers situations where the death of a person occurs by accident or mistake while intending to harm another individual, as well as actions carried out for an unlawful purpose that are likely to cause death.

A conviction for second-degree murder results in a mandatory life sentence. However, the sentencing judge has the discretion to allow parole eligibility after 10 years, offering a potential for earlier release depending on the circumstances of the case.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is a form of culpable homicide that does not meet the criteria for murder. Unlike murder, which involves the intentional killing of a human being, manslaughter occurs when a death is caused without the specific intent to kill.

There are two main types of manslaughter:

  • Unlawful Act Manslaughter: This occurs when a death results from a criminal act without the intention to cause death.
  • Manslaughter by Criminal Negligence: This involves a death caused by gross negligence or a failure to perform a legal duty, leading to fatal consequences.

Manslaughter can occur under various circumstances, such as deaths resulting from other criminal activities, criminal negligence, or actions that unintentionally cause fatal outcomes.

What is Attempted Murder?

Attempted murder is defined as the failed or aborted attempt to kill another person, requiring both an action and a specific intent to kill. To secure a conviction for attempted murder, the Crown must demonstrate that the accused took a direct step towards the killing, going beyond mere preparation and crossing into perpetration.

Crucial to a conviction for attempted murder is the proof of specific intent to kill, also known as subjective foresight. It is not sufficient for the Crown to prove that the accused intended to cause harm with the possibility of death. The Crown must show that the accused had a deliberate intent to kill at the moment the actions were taken, as anything less would violate the defendant’s Section 7 rights under the Charter. Demonstrating the accused’s specific intent to kill is essential for a conviction of attempted murder.

Understanding the distinctions between first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter is crucial in recognizing the varying degrees of intent and responsibility in homicide cases. Each type of murder carries severe penalties and specific legal definitions, reflecting the seriousness of taking a human life. 

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The Role of a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Murder Cases

In murder cases, the role of a criminal defence lawyer is crucial due to the complexity and seriousness of the charges. A competent defence lawyer performs various critical tasks to ensure a favourable outcome for their client.

Conducting Legal Research

Thorough legal research forms the backbone of a strong defence. Defence lawyers meticulously study relevant laws, precedents, and legal procedures to craft a robust legal strategy. This research is essential for understanding the nuances of the case and identifying potential defences.

Interviewing Witnesses

Interviewing witnesses is a key component of building a defence. Defence lawyers identify and interview potential witnesses to gather testimonies that can support the defence case. Witness statements can provide critical insights and corroborate the defendant’s version of events.

Reviewing and Ensuring Full Disclosure of Evidence

A vital part of a defence lawyer's role is to obtain and review all evidence disclosed by the prosecution. Ensuring full disclosure helps the defence prepare adequately and prevents any surprises during the trial. Criminal defence lawyers scrutinize the evidence to identify any inconsistencies or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

Preparing for Trial

Preparing for trial involves several meticulous steps. Criminal lawyers develop a comprehensive defence strategy, organize evidence, and prepare witnesses for testimony. Effective trial preparation is essential to present a coherent and compelling defence in court.

Negotiating with the Crown Counsel

Negotiation is a significant aspect of a defence lawyer’s role. By negotiating with the Crown counsel, defence lawyers can sometimes secure plea deals or charge reductions, which can result in more favourable outcomes for the defendant. These negotiations require skill and a deep understanding of the case dynamics.

Defending the Charges at Trial

Defending a client at trial is the culmination of a defence lawyer’s efforts. This involves presenting evidence, cross-examining prosecution witnesses, and making persuasive arguments to the jury or judge. A defence lawyer’s ability to effectively challenge the prosecution’s case and present a strong defence is critical to achieving a favourable verdict.

The role of a criminal defence lawyer in murder cases is multifaceted and essential for ensuring that the defendant receives a fair trial. From conducting thorough research to defending charges in court, each step is crucial in building a robust defence and protecting the rights of the accused.

Possible Defences Against Murder and Homicide Charges

Facing murder or homicide charges is a daunting experience, but there are several possible defences that can be employed depending on the specifics of the case. Understanding these defences is crucial in mounting an effective legal strategy.

Factual Innocence

One of the most straightforward defences is factual innocence. This defence asserts that the accused did not commit the crime. If the Crown is unable to prove the essential elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused will be acquitted. Establishing an alibi, presenting evidence that contradicts the prosecution's case, or demonstrating that someone else committed the crime are common approaches to asserting factual innocence.

Self-Defence and Defence of Others

Self-defence is a possible justification for homicide under Section 34(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. This defence applies if the accused believed on reasonable grounds that force or a threat of force was being used against them or another person, and they acted to defend or protect themselves or the other person from that threat. The actions taken must be reasonable under the circumstances. The defence of others follows similar principles, allowing one to use necessary force to protect another person from harm.


Provocation is a partial defence under Section 232 of the Criminal Code. It applies when the accused was provoked to lose self-control, leading to an intentional killing. This defence can reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. However, for provocation to be valid, the provocative act must be one that would cause an ordinary person to lose self-control, and the accused must have acted suddenly, without time for their passion to cool.


Intoxication can be used as a defence to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter if it can be shown that the accused was so impaired that they could not form the specific intent to kill. This defence argues that the accused's mental state was significantly altered by alcohol or drugs, affecting their ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. However, it is important to note that voluntary intoxication is not an absolute defence and is generally only relevant to the question of intent.

Mental Disorder or Illness

The defence of mental disorder, often referred to as "not criminally responsible due to mental disorder" (NCRMD), is outlined in Section 16 of the Criminal Code. This defence applies if the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence, rendering them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their actions or knowing that their actions were wrong. If successful, the accused is not found guilty but is instead placed under the supervision of a provincial review board for appropriate treatment.

These defences, when effectively presented, can significantly impact the outcome of a murder or homicide case. It is crucial to work with an experienced criminal defence lawyer to explore and establish the most appropriate defence based on the specific circumstances of each case.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Lawyer Today

Navigating the complexities of murder and homicide charges requires a highly skilled and experienced legal team. Pyzer Criminal Lawyers are dedicated to providing robust defence strategies, from understanding the nuances of Canadian homicide laws to presenting compelling defences in court. 

Our team conducts thorough legal research, interviews crucial witnesses, ensures full disclosure of evidence, and meticulously prepares for trial, all while negotiating with the Crown counsel to secure the most suitable outcomes for our clients. If you or a loved one are facing serious criminal charges, do not hesitate to reach out to Pyzer Criminal Lawyers for legal representation and a free consultation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder?

Murder is first-degree murder if it is planned and premeditated, or if the murder occurs during the course of a serious offence, like forcible confinement. An intentional murder that is not first-degree murder, is second-degree murder. The distinction between first-degree murder and second-degree murder is important because the potential sentences and the elements that the Crown is required to prove are unique.

What Is the Difference Between Murder and Attempted Murder?

The difference between murder and attempted murder is that in murder charges, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the accused lead to the death of the victim of the offence. In attempted murder charges, these actions would have fallen short of death, but the accused must have intended to kill the victim.

What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

There is no specific definition for the criminal offence of manslaughter in the Criminal Code. However, the Criminal Code defines culpable homicide that is not murder or infanticide as manslaughter. This means that manslaughter occurs when an illegal act is more than an accident but falls short of an intention to kill. Manslaughter can be established typically through an illegal act or criminal negligence.

How Much Does a Murder Lawyer Cost?

While defending every criminal offence has a unique cost involved, defending murder or criminal negligence charges are especially complex cases. This means that the work involved can vary significantly from one case to the next, and thus the costs involved will vary greatly as well. With the potential sentence of life imprisonment in a murder charge, you can expect to invest a significant amount in defending the offence. We recommend booking a consultation with a lawyer experienced in murder charges at Pyzer Criminal Lawyers to get an accurate quote in your case.

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