What is Culpable Homicide?

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What is Culpable Homicide?

In the news, we often read about murder and manslaughter, homicide and culpable homicide, but how many of us know the difference between these terms? The one thing they have in common is that one life was ended by another person, but they all have very different circumstances and, with that, very different penalties, as not all homicides are the same.

So, let’s have a look at what is culpable homicide.

What Is Culpable Homicide?

Section 222(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states that: “A person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being.”

To make it a culpable homicide, there has to be some form of intent. It is important to note that causing death does not have to be the intent. If you commit an illegal act that results in the death of an individual, it still qualifies as the requisite intent.

Section 222(5) of the Criminal Code of Canada states that a person commits culpable homicide when he causes the death of a human being:

  • (a) by means of an unlawful act;
  • (b) by criminal negligence;
  • (c) by causing that human being, by threats or fear of violence or by deception, to do anything that causes his death; or
  • (d) by willfully frightening a child or sick person.

How Law Distinguishes Between Different Types Of Culpable Homicides

Causing death with criminal intent is among the most serious offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. This excludes non-culpable homicide, where the accused is not held responsible because it includes death caused by self-defence.

Culpable homicide is divided into four sub-categories:

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Infanticide
  • Manslaughter

It is crucial to understand the differences between these categories as they influence the spectrum of punishment.

This article will explain the differences between first- and second-degree murder, infanticide and manslaughter.

Criminal Code of Canada

The Canadian justice system defines the Criminal Code of Canada as “a federal law that includes definitions of most of the criminal offences that the Parliament of Canada has enacted. It is often updated as society evolves and to improve the Canadian criminal process.”

Homicide in Canada

Section 222 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines homicide as killing or taking the life of another person. Further, homicide is divided into culpable and non-culpable homicide.

Non-culpable homicide is when the other person’s death is unintentional or involuntary. For example, it is considered non-culpable homicide if it happened in self-defence or when done entirely by accident. Non-culpable homicide is not an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada; however, a court may still impose other penalties.Culpable homicide, on the other hand, is the voluntary and intentional killing of another person. The Criminal Code of Canada recognizes three types of culpable homicide: Murder (first- and second-degree), infanticide and manslaughter.

How First-Degree Murder, Second-Degree Murder, Infanticide and Manslaughter Are Different from Each Other

Murder in Canada

Murder is defined in section 231 of the Criminal Code of Canada and is divided into first- and second-degree murder.

First-Degree Murder

One typical element of first-degree murder is that it is planned and deliberate. For an offence to be considered first-degree murder, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was planned beforehand and this plan was followed meticulously and intentionally to take the life of an individual.


There are some exceptions, however. For example, the killing of a peace officer is considered first-degree murder even without planning or if the killing occurred in the course of a “crime of domination,” such as kidnapping, taking a hostage, sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon or aggravated sexual assault, intimidation or criminal harassment. A contracted murder is also considered first-degree.

Generally, the penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is mandatory life imprisonment with a minimum parole ineligibility of 25 years.

Second-Degree Murder

Generally, any murder that is not first-degree murder is second-degree murder. It still involves the intention to take a life or cause bodily harm with the knowledge that it would likely result in death. However, it does not include planning in advance or deliberation. Typically, second-degree murder happens in the heat of an argument.

Like with first-degree murder, the mandatory sentence is life imprisonment; however, the difference lies in the ineligibility period for parole, which will depend on the gravity of the offence. If the perpetrator has been convicted of murder before, the ineligibility period will remain 25 years.

Infanticide in Canada

Section 233 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines infanticide as when a mother kills her newly-born child either willfully or by omission while in a mentally disturbed state from the effects of giving birth to the child or lactation. Infanticide does not carry a minimum sentence; the maximum sentence is five years in prison.

Manslaughter in Canada

Manslaughter is defined in section 234 of the Criminal Code of Canada as a culpable homicide that is neither murder nor infanticide. The absence of intent to kill separates manslaughter from murder, so if the person’s death results from a person’s unintentional or negligent wrongdoing (while not intending to kill or cause significant bodily harm, knowing it would likely result in death). 

Manslaughter does not carry a minimum sentence unless it is committed with a firearm, in which case the minimum sentence is four years in prison. The severity of the penalty lies within the Court’s discretion and can range from probation to imprisonment for life.

Farjoud Law has an outstanding track record defending clients charged with all types of criminal offences. We are dedicated to professionalism, client services and passionate advocacy. If you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offence, do not hesitate to call Farjoud Law at 647-606-6776 to speak directly to a criminal defence lawyer who personally answers all calls 24 hours/day – 7 days/week or fill out our convenient online form.

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