Murder Defence Lawyers2024-05-24T18:43:38+00:00


In Canada, murder is the most serious criminal offence you can be charged with. The facts are often complicated, and the stakes are very high. A lawyer’s legal expertise and advocacy experience is invaluable when dealing with this charge. 

What Is Murder?

Murder is intentional and culpable homicide. Under section 229 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a person commits murder when they cause the death of another person with the intent to cause their death or with the intent to cause them bodily harm that they know is likely to cause death and was reckless as to whether death ensued or not.

Murder can be in the first degree or second degree.

It is also important to note that manslaughter is considered to be a “lesser included offence” to murder. That means that even if you are charged with murder, you could ultimately be convicted of manslaughter instead, if the element of intention is not made out. Additionally, the Criminal Code allows for the partial defence of provocation which reduces murder to manslaughter.

What Is First Degree Murder?

Generally, first degree murder is both planned and deliberate. A murder is planned when it is conceived and thought out. A murder is deliberate when it not impulsive and is, instead, purposeful. A plan to kill does not need to be lengthy and elaborate; there just needs to be some degree of planning and deliberation before the murder occurs.

In some cases, a homicide can be classified as first degree murder even when it is not planned and deliberate. For instance, any killing of a peace officer, such as a police officer, is first degree murder even if there is no planning and deliberation.

Additionally, irrespective of whether it is planned or deliberate, a homicide is considered first degree murder if it was done while committing or attempting to commit any one of the following offences:

What Is Second Degree Murder?

Second degree murder is defined in the Criminal Code under section 231(7) as any murder that is not first degree murder. This means that second degree murder does not need to be planned and deliberate. So, second degree murder is an intentional homicide that is not planned and deliberate and was not done while committing or attempting to commit any of the offences listed above.
Being charged with a criminal offence, especially the most serious offence that exists, is a stressful and life-altering experience. It is important to seek professional advice from a lawyer about your rights from the beginning.

Murder Charges

Given the gravity of the penalties, the charges of murder are investigated very seriously. Before the Crown goes to trial, it may take months and sometimes even years after the arrest to get the case to trial, while the suspect can be kept in custody.

In preparing the charges, the police and the prosecution use all available resources to collect evidence to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The investigators use the most advanced and sophisticated methods, which can include running surveillance and involving informants to collect the evidence against the suspect. The disclosure may include thousands of pages of transcripts of the recordings, videos, and police notes, among other materials.

When the court reviews murder cases, the decision can hinge on the tiniest elements of evidence, resulting in different verdicts. Considering the huge difference in criminal consequences for first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter, there is no small evidence in these cases.

In defending homicide charges, a murder defence lawyer needs to spend countless hours reviewing volumes of disclosure and interviewing witnesses. A criminal defence lawyer may also involve other experts, such as licensed private investigators, to conduct interviews and interrogations. At Vilkhov Law, the founding partner and a principal lawyer, Igor Vilkhov, exclusively handles all murder charges from beginning to end, drawing upon years of experience in criminal investigations and trial work.

Experienced Toronto defence lawyers can fight your murder charges. Call 647-977-5852 or reach out online for a free review.

Sentence for Murder in Ontario

There is only one answer to the question of how long is a murder sentence in Canada, which is mandatory imprisonment for life. The only difference between first- and second-degree murder sentences is the period of time before the offender can be eligible for parole. It should be noted that if someone commits several killings, the prosecution may seek consecutive sentences, pushing the timing for parole eligibility even further.

Even if someone is granted parole after a murder sentence, they will be on parole for the rest of their life. If they breach their release conditions or commit a new offence at any moment in life, the parole can be revoked with subsequent re-incarceration.

The only chance to avoid life imprisonment for homicide in Canada is to have the murder charges reduced to manslaughter, which is considered a lesser included offence. While unlawful act manslaughter also goes with a life sentence as a maximum criminal penalty, it does not carry minimum mandatory punishment and no minimum requirement for parole eligibility with sentences of several years in prison.

Defence Strategy for Murder Charges in Toronto and the GTA

When looking for an answer to the question of what are the defences for first-degree murder or second-degree murder, the best strategy always is to contact a criminal law firm for a free consultation. Meanwhile, there are several common defences, which can be applied to combat murder charges. The list of available defence strategies and partial defences to murder charges includes:

  • provocation, where a person commits homicide “in the heat of passion,”
  • defence of intoxication, which, under the circumstances, can reduce the charge to manslaughter,
  • self-defence or defence of another person,
  • “battered woman syndrome” defence where someone commits a homicide to apprehend death or serious bodily injury even in the absence of an immediate attack,
  • raising a reasonable doubt about any element of the prosecution’s case.

Experienced murder lawyers adapt these strategies based on the individual circumstances of the accused and can help achieve the most favourable possible outcome in the criminal case.

Arrest and bail for murder charges

When you are arrested on murder charges in Ontario, the police must inform you of your Charter rights to remain silent and speak to a lawyer. It is in your best interests to refrain from answering any questions or making any statements to the police and politely inform them that you intend to exercise your Charter rights to speak to a murder defence lawyer first.

Due to the serious nature of the charges, you will be held in custody after arrest before the bail hearing. The police must bring you in front of the judge within 24 hours of your arrest or as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help you navigate the criminal process, devise a bail plan and advocate for your release.

In Canada, everyone has a constitutional right to reasonable bail and cannot be denied release without “just cause.” Meanwhile, the Crown will contest your release on murder charges, considering the gravity of the allegations. You will be required to demonstrate to the judge of the Superior Court why your detention is not justified and address all concerns of the prosecutions. When deciding upon bail, the judge will consider multiple factors, including the adequacy of “sureties,” who pledge a certain amount of money to be paid if you violate your bail terms. 

A bail hearing in a murder case can be an uphill battle. In addition to having to demonstrate that you are not at flight risk and do not pose any threat to the public, you can be subject to stringent conditions, for example, supervision, house arrest, ankle monitoring, no contact orders and other similar restrictions. In these circumstances, hiring a murder charges lawyer is always recommended to maximize your chances of release on bail under less stringent conditions.

Awaiting trial for homicide

Your murder lawyer can start preparing a defence plan for your case as soon as you retain one. As the first step, the lawyer will ask the Crown for full disclosure of evidence. Since there are certain elements of disclosure the Crown would only release to the legal counsel, hiring a lawyer is instrumental for obtaining full information the prosecution has against you, irrespective of whether they plan to use it during the trial.

After reviewing the disclosure, your lawyer will participate in the Crown pre-trial (CPT) hearing and the Judicial pre-trial (JPT) hearing to negotiate with the prosecution and the court on your behalf. Retaining a lawyer comes with the advantage of not having to be present during the CPT and JPT and having a legal professional advocate for you during these and other pre-trial meetings.

If you face murder charges in Ontario, you will be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, which allows to determine if the Crown has a strong case to proceed to trial. The judge can discharge you if they find that there is no sufficient evidence to support the case. Needless to say, having an experienced Toronto murder lawyer by your side at this stage can be pivotal for the whole criminal process.

Consequences if found guilty of murder

The minimum mandatory murder sentence in Canada is lifetime imprisonment for both first-degree and second-degree homicides. For first-degree murder, the offender can be released on parole only after serving a minimum of 25 years. For second-degree murder, someone can be eligible for parole only after 10 years in confinement. 

A conviction for homicide is also followed by a weapon prohibition order. In addition, the offender will receive a DNA order and will have to submit a biological sample to the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB). The murder conviction will stay on the offender’s criminal record for life with respective consequences for employment, housing and social opportunities.

It Is Important to Hire Murder Lawyer for Charges Dropped

Having been charged with an offence in Ontario can be a daunting and life-altering experience, especially when the criminal matter involves a homicide with a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In these circumstances, retaining experienced murder lawyers in Toronto is absolutely vital for building a strong defence and maximizing your chances of mitigating the charges.

A murder lawyer in Toronto can help:

  • navigate the justice system and understand your options,
  • prepare for the bail hearing and advocate for less restrictive bail conditions,
  • obtain full disclosure of evidence against you,
  • choose the most effective defence strategy and adapt it to your individual circumstances,
  • appear during pre-trial meetings with the Crown and the judge on your behalf,
  • advocate for you inside and outside the courtroom,
  • analyze the evidence the Crown has against you, find gaps in the prosecution’s case and explore opportunities for defence,
  • raise a reasonable doubt about the evidence,
  • conduct interviews and interrogations of the witnesses, involving investigators and other experts to analyze the evidence,
  • advocate for you during the trial to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

All criminal cases are complex and fact-specific, and previous results do not guarantee future outcomes. If you are at risk of facing murder charges, you need to consult an experienced Toronto murder lawyer immediately. Please do not hesitate to contact Vilkhov Law firm for a free consultation about your options.

Murder lawyer Igor Vilkhov
Toronto murder lawyer Joel Prajs
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Can you be tried for murder twice in Canada?2024-05-23T20:24:46+00:00

In Canada, you are protected by the Charter from the so-called “double jeopardy,” which is being tried again for the same crime, including murder. However, it only applies when someone is convicted or acquitted of the homicide. If the acquittal is thrown out and criminal proceedings or trial continues on appeal, the new trial for the same offence is not considered double jeopardy.

Can the Crown withdraw murder charges in Ontario?2024-05-23T20:24:08+00:00

Similar to other offences, the prosecution can withdraw the charges anytime unless you plead guilty to the offence. The Crown may stop prosecuting the charges if they find that they do not have evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutors may decide to withdraw the charges during the preliminary inquiry stage while the accused awaits trial, during the court hearing or at any other moment.

How can you fight murder charges?2024-05-23T20:23:39+00:00

There are several strategies available to fight charges of homicide in Canada. The list of defences includes raising a reasonable doubt about any elements of the offence or claiming self-defence, provocation or intoxication to mitigate the charges. An experienced murder lawyer can adapt any of these strategies to individual circumstances of the offence and offer a unique and personalized representation for achieving the most favourable possible outcome.

What are the three degrees of murder in Ontario?2024-05-23T20:23:00+00:00

The Criminal Code of Canada differentiates first-degree murder, second-degree murder and unlawful act manslaughter as a lesser included offence. First-degree murder involves intentional, planned and deliberate homicides as well as killing when committing hijacking, terrorist activity, sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking or criminal harassment, as outlined in Section  231 (1) of the Criminal Code.

Second-degree murder involves killing that is not planned or deliberate and is not done while committing any of the offences listed above. Meanwhile, unlawful act manslaughter involves cases where death is caused without intent while committing an unlawful or reckless act.

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