What is the difference between first degree murder and second degree murder?

Crimes that involve the deliberate taking of another human life are some of the most serious criminal charges under Canada's Criminal Code. While Canada does not have a death penalty, long prison terms, including consecutive terms, can result from murder convictions in Canada. However, not all murder charges are the same. These charges should be well understood to understand where on the spectrum of punishments a person may be. The moral culpability associated with the action that results in the loss of life will have a large effect on the outcome.

First Degree Murder

First degree murder is premeditated. To obtain a first-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must demonstrate that there was a certain degree of planning and deliberation before the individual intentionally took the life of another. A murder conviction requires a mandatory life sentence with minimum parole eligibility for first degree murder of 25 years. Recent changes in law mean that the Crown can seek consecutive sentences for multiple victims. Because of this, it is possible for some of those convicted to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Second Degree Murder

While second degree murder also involves the intentional taking of a life, it lacks the planning and deliberation that first degree murder charges require. A second-degree murder may occur in the heat of an argument, for instance. Second degree murder convictions also carry mandatory life sentences and have a minimum parole eligibility of 10 years. However, in some some cases, the minimum parole eligibility requirement may be as long as 25 years. As with first degree murder, people who are convicted may be subject to consecutive sentences.

Other cases that involve loss of life but lack intention can be classified as manslaughter or criminal negligence. The variance in sentences associated with these charges is wide. However, recent updates to Canada's criminal code may involve minimum sentences for some charges. For instance, a death involving a firearm comes with a minimum sentence of four years.

Any criminal charge involving a death is serious. It is vital that individuals who have been or may be charged in the death of another have suitable representation in court. We can help you with every aspect from police interviews and bail to every stage of a trial. If you or someone you love may be charged with a crime, there is no time to waste. Get in touch today to ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the best outcome possible in your case.