Manslaughter & Murder 

What You Need to Know

Although Canada does not enforce the death penalty, murder and manslaughter charges are some of the most serious criminal charges available under the Criminal Code and carry some of the most serious penalties available in law if you are convicted.

Murder or Manslaughter occurs where one person loses their life as the result of another person’s actions. The moral culpability of the action that results in a loss of life will determine where on the spectrum of charges someone may be at risk.


Recent changes to the Criminal Code have made penalties for murder more serious than ever before. Although Canada does not enforce capital punishment (the death penalty), consecutive sentences are now available to prosecutors in the event of multiple victims. This means that, if convicted, you may never be released from prison once sentenced. The consequences of a first or second degree murder conviction will result in at least a 10-year imprisonment, and can range up to 25 years before eligibility for parole. Lesser charges will prove shorter average sentencing. The negative impact of spending a significant portion of one’s life behind bars is insurmountable and cannot be understated. Our criminal lawyers are dedicated to working towards solutions that minimizes these implications.

How We Can Help

Choosing a lawyer for murder or manslaughter charges is an extremely important step in the process. Not only do these offences carry some of the most severe penalties, they may also involve complex factual and legal issues. Here are some of the possible areas where our firm can assist you:

  • Bail: One of the most overlooked parts of the criminal justice system is obtaining bail for homicide charges. In Canada, everyone is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ‘reasonable bail’. There are no offences for which bail is not available, and even individuals charged with first-degree murder are entitled to reasonable bail in the right circumstances. Many defence lawyers simply give up on bail when faced with a murder charge and their clients subsequently languish in custody for years pending a trial. We believe that you are entitled to liberty until you are proven guilty, and we will work hard to secure your release. 
  • Trial: Taking your matter to trial means having the Crown Prosecutor prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Murder cases are complex and rarely are they black and white. More often than not, there will be evidentiary and legal issues at trial that will give rise to a defence. The charges against you can be defended in a number of ways:
    • Challenging the facts: Murder cases often raise some of the unique and challenging legal issues and fact scenarios. These cases are often dependent on circumstantial evidence, which means the prosecution is trying to piece together what happened. The prosecution also often requires multiple witnesses and forensic experts in order to put these pieces together. Experienced legal counsel can help to pick apart the prosecution and raise an effective legal defence.
    • Interpreting the law in your favour: We argue the law and precedent cases in a way that is most favourable to your specific case and fact scenario. This is achieved through careful and diligent legal research and application.
    • Violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Talking to the police, giving statements, providing any kind of self-incriminatory evidence can be detrimental to the outcome of your case. After the fact, our assault lawyers can apply to have this initial evidence excluded by way of an application made under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We understand the typical violations to your Charter Rights. For example, police may search your car without permission, or not give you the option to call a lawyer. These violations are arguable in the courts in your defence.
  • Sentence: In some cases, the best course of legal action may be to reduce the damage that may be done to you. Not all cases are defensible or result in acquittals. In these circumstances you will benefit from an experienced lawyer who can help keep your sentence as lenient as possible. This could include any number of possibilities:
    • Reducing the charge: All murder convictions result in life sentences, however, the difference between first and second-degree murder will drastically affect parole eligibility. If convicted of first-degree murder, you cannot apply for parole for at least 25 years. A conviction for 2nd degree murder allows for parole eligibility as early as 10 years. Manslaughter has no minimum sentence or parole eligibility, but can have some minimum periods of jail imposed. In some circumstances having a more serious charge reduced will result in years, if not decades, being shaved off of any jail sentence. 
    • Reducing jail time: Having an experienced lawyer argue for the best possible outcome if you are convicted could mean the difference of several months or years in jail. 
    • Acquittals: raising a reasonable doubt with respect to your guilt and obtaining a verdict of not guilty is the ultimate goal in any defence at Dunn and Associates. Our firm starts from the perspective that you are innocent until proven guilty and will put our formidable years of experience to work for you to achieve this goal.

Call us. We can help.
If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, do not lose hope. Let our Calgary team of criminal lawyers help to understand your case and build a defence strategy based on your innocence until proven guilty.

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