Homicide is a serious crime. It involves taking another person’s life, either through indirect or direct actions. Homicide is a generalized term classified into several different types including:
- First degree murder,
- Second degree murder.
The purpose of the sub-categories has to do with the level and degree of responsibility the suspect contributed towards the death.
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Manslaughter is the category of homicide used when it is not murder of either the first or second degree. Because murder requires the actual intention to kill another person, manslaughter is used for homicides where there was no intent to kill the victim. There are various forms of manslaughter, but the two most common are manslaughter by criminal negligence and unlawful act manslaughter. They are described as under:
- Criminal Negligence: In which a person’s act or omission resulted in the death of another person because there was a marked departure from the normal standards of behaviour, where a reasonable person in the same circumstances would not have killed the other person.
- Unlawful Act Manslaughter: When the accused is doing something illegal and because of their actions results in the unintentional killing of another person.
First Degree Murder
First degree murder is the highest level of a homicide criminal offense. The courts have defined first degree murder as the deliberate and planned murder of another person. The homicide is considered deliberate if the suspect’s actions were intentional and purposeful.
When defining homicide as first degree murder, all that the courts are concerned with is:
- Whether there was some form of planning present at any point, and
- Whether the suspect deliberately and successfully carry out their plan.
A failed plan to successfully murder another person normally results in being charged with attempted murder.
Second Degree Murder
Second degree murder is a category of murder used when the homicide does not meet the requirements of first degree murder. According to Toronto criminal defense lawyers, In order to be categorized as murder, regardless of the degree, the actual intention to kill someone by the accused must be present.
Any person found guilty of a first or second degree murder charge is automatically sentenced to life in prison.
- For first degree murder, the guilty person will be eligible for parole after 25 years of imprisonment.
- A person held for second degree murder may be eligible for parole after minimum 10 years in prison.
- The maximum penalty for those found guilty of manslaughter is life in prison. There is no minimum requirement.
How Charges Can Be Reduced
Two of the more common defenses to murder charges are provocation and drunkenness.
- Murder committed while provoked, might result in the charges being reduced to manslaughter.
- Drunkenness and/or any drug induced mental state affect a person’s ability to satisfy the intent to kill requirement of murder and the homicide charge may be reduced to manslaughter.