The Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter

Criminal offences that result in the death of another person are among the most serious crimes in our criminal justice system. The stigma associated with homicide is severe – so much so that even an arrest can irrevocably damage an individual’s reputation, career, and relationships.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

In Ontario, there are various types of homicide offences. Most people have heard of both murder and manslaughter, but they may not understand the difference between these two offences.

The main thing that separates murder from manslaughter is whether the crime was carried out deliberately or unintentionally. The question does not turn on if the accused was culpable (responsible) for the other person’s death – it’s what degree of culpability was involved.

The law places the varying degrees of culpability on a sort of spectrum, with murder and manslaughter close together but still separated by important differences in the accused’s mental state at the time of the crime.

In murder cases, the Crown must prove that the accused killed the other person and consciously intended to do so or caused the other person physical harm with the knowledge that the harm was likely to result in death.

In manslaughter cases, the Crown must prove that the accused killed the other person but did not carry out the crime with the intent to kill. It’s also manslaughter if the accused killed the other person but didn’t know that his actions were likely to result in death.

Proving State of Mind

Because the distinction between murder and manslaughter depends on the accused’s state of mind, it can be quite difficult to prove that the accused intended to take the other person’s life. In murder cases, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intended to end the victim’s life. This is the highest burden of proof in our legal system.

If you or a loved one has been charged with murder, manslaughter, criminal negligence, or any other type of serious crime, it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. It may be possible to have the charges against you dismissed. Even in cases where a dismissal is not possible, we may still be able to work out a plea agreement that reduces the penalties against you.

Ottawa, Ontario Criminal Defence

Criminal defence lawyers Bruce Engel and Elena Davies have represented individuals and businesses charged with hundreds of different offences throughout Canada for more than two decades. From the start of a criminal investigation to the close of a trial, we will take a balanced and forceful approach to your defence. We have the experience and know-how to effectively navigate the constantly changing justice system in Canada.

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Engel & Associates
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