Murder is the most serious charge in Canada. This makes it important to seek a strong criminal defence lawyer to represent you.

As a leading criminal defence lawyer in Surrey, Mr. Melville has successfully represented clients charged with manslaughter, attempted murder, and first degree murder.

Various Categories of Murders

Under the Criminal Code, murder is defined as the unjustified and intentional killing of another person or human being. There are three broad types of murder recognized under the Criminal Code as discussed below.

First Degree Murder

First degree murders are usually premeditated and deliberate. They can also occur during other crimes such as kidnapping, sexual assault, killing of a peace officer, or taking a hostage among others.

Murder is believed to be deliberate if the actions involved were purposeful and intended. The plan to kill does not always have to be complicated or lengthy. For a murder to be categorized first degree, some form of planning is required at some point of time to kill the person, and that the deliberate plan is carried out successfully.

First degree murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence. There is a possibility of parole after 25 years into the sentence. Prosecution can also seek consecutive sentences if an individual gets convicted for multiple murders.

Second Degree Murder

Murders that involve intentional killing without the premeditation of first-degree murders are called second degree murders. Typically, murders not classified as first degree are usually second degree.

Homicides get categorized as murder if the accused intended to kill another. Hence, second degree murders can be described as a catch-all category for all types of intentional homicides not falling within the purview of first-degree murders.

Second degree murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence. However, parole can be allowed within 10 years into the sentence by the sentencing judge.


This refers to the killing of a victim caused by a criminal act, without the specific intention of causing death. Manslaughter is a lesser offence but included within the purview of first- and second-degree murders. Common manslaughter types include manslaughter by criminal negligence and unlawful act of manslaughter.

Manslaughter by criminal negligence involves a person departing from the standard of behaviour as expected of any average reasonable person to behave in similar circumstances. The offence requires that bodily harm or death be a foreseeable result of the defendant’s behaviour.

Unlawful act manslaughter is said to occur when the defendant while doing something illegal causes another person’s death unintentionally. For instance, an intentional assault which caused another person to die unintentionally can be categorized as unlawful act manslaughter.

A defence of intoxication or provocation can be argued in instances where the intentional killing took place in circumstances when the accused was severely intoxicated or provoked. However, murder cases being reduced to manslaughter as a result of intoxication or provocation is extremely rare in the current state of law.



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    Conviction for Murder and Manslaughter

    First-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter offences carry severe penalties even though the law looks at all three differently. Defendants found guilty of murder are automatically sentenced to a life in jail. Accused becomes eligible for parole only after 25 years if convicted of first-degree murder.

    Individuals convicted of second-degree murder are eligible for parole after 10 years of life imprisonment. However, this is within the sentencing judge’s discretion. If required, the judge can always increase the ineligibility parole period to 25 years.

    Individuals convicted of the least culpable homicide, manslaughter, are liable to serve a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, there is a minimum sentence of four years in prison if the crime was committed using a firearm. The penalty in other cases is left to the discretion of the trial judge.

    Common Defences to Murder Charge

    Provocation and intoxication are the two most common defences to a murder charge. They may not allow the charge to be lowered to manslaughter, but they can reduce the maximum sentence.


    In very limited circumstances, defendants committing murder in the heat of passion may get reduced sentences if caused by provocation. Courts view provocation as a deprivation of self-control in an ordinary person. This negates the intent to kill.


    Intoxication because of alcohol or drugs affects the ability to form the required intent to kill. This can go a long way in reducing the murder sentence and charges.

    Acquire the Right Legal Assistance

    There is no criminal offence as severe as a murder. Homicide will attract lengthy jail sentences including life imprisonment. Defendants facing manslaughter or murder charges should consider their lawyers carefully. Mr. Melville has the experience and resources to build a strong defence for your murder case. Preparation is the key when it comes to criminal defence. Call 604-265-7020 for a free initial consultation as soon as possible to begin building your defence.

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      Important: Nothing contained in this website should be construed as legal advice. Descriptions of law, areas of law, or past cases are not legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Each case turns on its specific facts so contact Dale Melville Law at 604-265-7020 today for advice.