Toronto Murder Lawyers
We defend manslaughter, murder and criminal negligence causing death cases
What to do if you are charged with a homicide or are a suspect in a homicide investigation
Someone who is involved in a homicide investigation or who has been charged with a homicide needs to retain a lawyer immediately. The police go to great lengths to make arrests in homicide cases – and there have been cases in the past where suspects were unfairly targeted or their rights were violated in the process. The police will often use surreptitious surveillance like wiretaps, execute numerous search warrants, or deploy undercover officers to try and get evidence against their suspect. Many accused people go through the investigation stage of a homicide case without a criminal lawyer by their side, often with disastrous consequences.
After an arrest, someone accused of homicide needs a lawyer to help them get out of jail and police custody. It is hard to get bail in homicide cases, especially where the charge is murder. The Criminal Code creates presumptions that people charged with certain offences – like murder – should be kept in jail until their trial, which could be years in the future. It is crucial to have an experienced lawyer who can put together an intricate bail plan that will convince the court that the accused can safely be released to their family while awaiting trial.
Our firm has a lot of experience defending homicide charges in Ontario. We know how to craft a defence to these charges, to find and preserve the evidence needed to back it up, and to marshal that evidence in court to provide the best defence possible to the charge. Having a lawyer with a proven track record in Court is the most important thing you can do to help your case. You need a lawyer who can persuasively tell your story and present your defence through cross-examination, by preparing you to testify, and by using the law and the facts to persuasively argue your defence in closing submissions.
If you have been charged with a homicide or believe that you might be, contact us using the form on this web page immediately for a free consultation about your case.
What is homicide?
Homicide is defined by section 222(1) of the Criminal Code. A homicide occurs whenever someone causes the death of another person. However, not all homicides are crimes. The Criminal Code distinguishes between “culpable” and “non culpable” homicide and says that only culpable homicides are subject to punishment. Section 222(5) of the Criminal Code says that, among other things, someone is guilty of culpable homicide if they cause someone’s death by “an unlawful act” or by “criminal negligence.”
Section 222(4) of the Criminal Code says that all culpable homicides are called either murder, manslaughter, or infanticide.
What is murder and how many types of murder are there?
In general, murder refers to the intentional killing of another person. Murder carries an automatic life sentence and is among the most serious crimes in Canada, and properly defending a murder charge is difficult, complicated, and incredibly important.
There are only two different types or “degrees” of murder: first degree and second degree.
First Degree Murder
Occurs when a murder is “planned and deliberate,” or where an unplanned murder occurs while another offence is being committed (e.g. sexual assault, kidnapping, or a hostage taking), or where the victim is a peace officer, prison guard, or someone working in a jail.
Criminal negligence causing death
Sections 219 and 220 of the Criminal Code say that someone who causes another person’s death by doing something, or failing to do something that it is their duty to do, while showing a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons, is guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Like manslaughter, this offence applies to people who kill someone without the intention for murder. This charge often results in cases where someone has done something reckless, like driving their car in an unsafe way, and it has led to a crash where someone died. Similarly, the charge can be laid when someone fails to do something they are supposed to do and it leads to someone else’s death. As an example, there have been cases where young children were left unattended in bathtubs or pools and they accidentally drowned. This can result in a criminal negligence charge against the people who were responsible for supervising the children (e.g. their parents, teachers, babysitters, or other guardians).
Second Degree Murder
Defined by section 2229(a) of the Criminal Code as an intentional killing that occurs when one person causes another person’s death, and either meant to cause their death, or meant to cause such harm that he or she knew death was likely the result and was reckless about whether death ensues or not.
Frequently asked questions about murder and manslaughter charges
What are the defences to murder and manslaughter?
Murder and manslaughter charges are notoriously difficult to defend and having an experienced, dedicated, and hard working criminal lawyer is absolutely essential in these cases. The police dedicate more resources to homicide investigations than anything else, and these types of case lead to vast amounts of evidence that a defence lawyer must carefully review in crafting a defence. The police collect huge amounts of forensic evidence, retain experts to provide opinions on things like DNA, fingerprints, and other types of evidence, search cell phones and laptops, and gather hundreds of hours of surveillance footage.
There are many possible defences to charges like these. The most basic is to try and raise a reasonable doubt about whether the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is actually the person who caused death. If the Crown cannot prove who called the deceased, the accused will be found not guilty. This can be achieved by raising doubts about the circumstantial evidence the Crown is relying on (e.g. their theory of the accused’s motive, or their timeline for when they believe the homicide took place) or by pointing to an alternate suspect that the defence believes may be responsible for the death.
In cases where it is clear that the accused caused the death, self defence is another common defence. Section 34(1) of the Criminal Code provides a defence for someone who kills someone else if they believed that force or a threat of force is being used against them or another person, that their action is committed for the purpose of defending themselves or someone else, and that the act is reasonable in the circumstances. Under Canada’s self-defence laws, you are allowed to intentionally kill another person in order to defend yourself, as long as that is the reason for your action, and the act is deemed reasonable in the circumstances. Self-defence cases will always turn on questions surrounding how a fight or disagreement started, who the aggressor was, and whether the defensive act was reasonable or disproportional to the threat that was faced.
Contact us about your case
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