Attempted Murder Sentence in Canada Explained

Regina Criminal Defence Lawyers > Blog > Murder > Attempted Murder Sentence in Canada Explained
Attempted Murder Sentence in Canada Explained Featured Image

Cases involving attempted murder are complex as it’s about life. While the punishment for murder is definite, attempted murder involves several factors to consider.

Many often assume that it makes no difference in punishment whether the victim passed away or survived the horrific experience. But that is not how attempted murder sentence in Canada works.

Read on to clarify any confusion regarding attempted murder cases.

What is Attempted Murder?

An attempted murder refers to an unsuccessful endeavor to kill someone. It is one of the most serious accusations under the Criminal Code.

According to section 24 of the Criminal Code, making an “attempt” is defined as having the intention to conduct an offense and then executing or failing to take any action to carry out that intention.

Therefore, anyone who attempts murder is someone who intends to kill and does activities related to the intention of killing.

Nevertheless, the law has a lot to say here. Let’s see what the criminal code dictates.

The criminal code of Canada attempted murder

The Criminal Code of Canada Section 239 defines attempted murder as –

Anyone who tries to murder in any way is guilty of an indictable crime and accountable if they succeed.”

And that brings us to Canada attempted murder sentence.

Instances that will be counted as an attempted murder

To be accused of attempting murder:

  • You require no plan to kill a particular person. Instead, the prosecution depends on whether someone intended to take certain actions that culminated in a murder attempt.
  • Even if you are not aiming at a single individual, shooting a loaded gun into a crowd of people is still deemed attempted murder.
  • Depending on some circumstances, pointing a gun at someone might be enough to qualify you for an attempted murder charge.

What is an Attempted Murder Sentence in Canada

The maximum penalty for attempted murder in Canada sentence is lifetime imprisonment. If it is committed using a restricted or prohibited firearm or in association with an organized crime, there is a required term in prison.

On the other hand, it will be a mandatory minimum prison time if any firearm is involved. On a side note, if the defendant receives a life sentence in jail, they can petition for parole after serving seven years.

You can see that different factors affect the attempted murder sentence time in Canada. Therefore, you must understand a few additional details concerning the sentencing.

Examples of Attempt Murder

To be charged with attempted murder, you do not need to have planned to kill a particular person; rather, the charge depends on whether you intended to carry out the offence’s actual acts. Even if you are not aiming at a specific person, firing a loaded gun into a crowd of people is still considered attempted murder. In other situations, depending on the specifics, simply pointing a pistol in their direction could be enough for an attempted murder charge.

The State must establish both a definite purpose for committing murder and at least one step beyond preparation if attempted murder charges are to be proven guilty. It can be difficult for the State to establish that someone had the intent to kill someone else.

How Long is a Life Sentence in Canada?

Factors That Will Impact the Attempted Murder Charge in Canada

This section and the preceding section might look alike, but there are some specifications that we need to identify.

Using a firearm:

A mandatory minimum prison term of four years will be imposed for firearm use.

Using prohibited or restricted firearms:

The mandatory minimum punishment is five years in jail if the firearm is restricted or forbidden.

Association with organized crime:

The mandatory minimum punishment would be five years in jail if the crime cooperated with a criminal organization.

Guilty of the new crime and previous crime record:

If an accused person is found guilty of attempted murder and has a prior history of any of the crimes listed here, they must serve a minimum of 7 years in prison.

Legal Consideration for an Attempted Murder Ruling

Depending on a few factors, the sentences may change. However, the decision will be based on a wide range of evidence. Thus, there are important legal considerations to know about.

  • The Crown must prove there is a particular intention beyond a reasonable doubt to murder someone.
  • Use of any weapon and the direct action taken to be found guilty of third-degree murder, like in the case of first and second-degree murder.
  • To be charged with attempted murder, the accused must conduct at least one act meant to cause death.
  • The accused won’t be found guilty in terms of self-defense under a few circumstances mentioned below.

Considerations relating self-defense

Under section 34 of the Criminal Code, self-defense could be the major ground of an attempted murder case only if-

  • There are legitimate reasons to believe that the accused is the target of an act of violence or threat of violence.
  • One can attempt to murder to protect themselves or another person. In that case, you will not be guilty.
  • The action taken (murder attempt) could be the appropriate step to take in various circumstances. What are those circumstances, then? Find out more in the upcoming section.

These rules do not apply if someone else uses force to fulfill a legal obligation unless the person using force reasonably suspects that the other person is breaking the law.

Factors considered in assessing an attempted murder not-guilty

The court must consider all the relevant information regarding the individual, the other parties, and the act to determine whether it was reasonable under the circumstances.

The following aspects may be considered. However, they are not limited to these.

  • The type of threat or force
  • Whether there were any alternative options for responding to the probable use of force and how immediate the use of force was
  • The individual role in the occurrence
  • Whether anyone involved in the event displayed a weapon or made threats to do so
  • The physical stature, physical fitness, gender, and age of the participants in the incident
  • The relationship between the persons involved in the event, including its nature, length, and history, and any earlier instances of use or threat of force.
  • Any prior interactions or correspondence between the people involved in the event.

Since firearm use is a critical factor in sentencing, let’s know about firearms revolving around an attempted murder.

What exactly is a firearm

Section 2 of the Canadian Criminal Code provides the following definition of a firearm –

Any barreled weapon that may fire any shot, bullet, or other projectiles resulting in significant bodily harm or death for a person, including the weapon’s frame or receiver and anything that can be modified to be used as a firearm.”

If an air pistol can discharge a projectile at high feet per second velocity and the shell cause serious bodily harm or death to a person, the air pistol may be deemed to be a firearm.

What is a prohibited firearm?

  • A pistol with a 105 mm barrel length or less, or one intended to fire bullets of 25 or 32 calibers. The International Shooting Union’s guidelines do not apply to any handgun prescribed to be used in international sporting events.
  • A firearm modified to resemble a rifle or shotgun by sawing, cutting, or any other alteration. And that has a barrel that is no longer than 457 mm or 660 mm or longer in overall length.
  • A firearm that fires one projectile per trigger pull which may or may not, has been modified to be an automatic weapon.

What is a restricted firearm?

  • A pistol is a legal weapon
  • A legal firearm with a barrel that is no longer than 470 mm. Additionally, it has a semi-automatic center-fire ammo discharge capability.
  • A firearm that can be shot when folded, telescoping, or otherwise shortened to a length of less than 660 mm.
  • Any other type of firearm that is designated as a restricted firearm.

Final Remarks

Allegations of attempted murder are extremely serious, and a full police investigation will be conducted.

That’s why there will be witness interviews, scene documentation, surveillance video analysis, cell phone records retrieval, DNA collection, and other forensic evidence in terms of gathering evidence. And Police will charge the suspect with murder if they can obtain enough proof.

If anyway wants to need to fight the case, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help during the preliminary investigation and assist in reviewing the Crown’s case to find the most effective legal defenses.

So, given the complications of an attempted murder allegation, you must hire a skilled criminal lawyer to represent you.


Go through the following question to clear up any confusion.

What is the sentence for attempted murder in Canada?

The maximum sentence for attempted murder is lifetime imprisonment. And the minimum sentence for possessing a firearm is four, five, or seven years. But that will rely on previous arrests and affiliation with organized crime.

How many years prison time for attempted murders in Canada?

The most severe penalty for attempted murder is life in prison. However, for the first attempt at the murder committed with an illegal firearm, the required minimum punishment is five years. And in terms of a subsequent offense, the minimum sentence is seven years in jail.

Why is attempted murder a lesser crime than murder?

Even when two acts have the same purpose, the one that results in murder should have harsher punishment. Because of this, penalties for those who intentionally kill life and those who attempt to take life are not equal. In addition, the loss is profound and irreversible when someone passes away. Conversely, there is a partial loss if the victim lives, or there might be no loss. Overall, this is why the attempted murder charge sentence in Canada varies.