Difference Between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Murders and Manslaughter

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Difference Between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Murders and Manslaughter

Differences between first, second and third degree murders will enlighten your knowledge and help you find the right steps to face any lawsuit related to it. We are going to explain the difference between 1st 2nd 3rd degree murders and manslaughter for you. Without spending time here, let’s start our discussion.

One of the heinous actions someone can commit is to take another person’s life. This is a belief that is acknowledged by the law and outside of the law too. However, it is essential to remember not all murder is committed with malicious intent or with intent at all. Thus, it is vital to understand and educate ourselves regarding different types of murder.

Difference Between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Murders and Manslaughter

As we’ve said in the introduction, we will discuss every kind o-f murder case recognized in Canada. It is difficult for people to understand all those murder differences at once. So, we have broken them down part by part. Additionally, you should read individual definitions of murders carefully.

However, in the end, you will see the ultimate comparison between degrees of murders. So, you can see them at once. And as you will read all the comparisons between murder types individually, you will easily understand them. Let’s start with first degree vs second degree murder.

Difference Between 1st and 2nd Degree Murders

The difference between first and second-degree murders is subtly distinguishable. You will have to observe and notice the slight differences in the cases to understand.

First Degree Murder

First, murder is considered first-degree when it is premeditated, i.e., the murderer planned the crime for a while before committing it. They made the kill with the full intent of killing the victim. Moreover, felony murders are also considered 1st-degree murders.

Felonies considered first-degree murder are arson, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and rape.

Second Degree Murder

On the other hand, when an individual murders without the actual planning of killing, then it is said to be second-degree murder. This happens when the murderer intends to injure and harm the victim to extreme severity physically. Later, the injury leads to intentional but unplanned death. Someone being reckless and violent towards another person results in such a death.

The critical difference between first-degree vs. second-degree murders is the intention the murderer or the defendant had towards their victim while taking the action they did. We have a different article on murder vs. manslaughter, you will get everything you need after complete reading it.

Difference Between 1st and 3rd Degree Murders

As mentioned above, first-degree murders are preplanned murders. They take time and planning, and to some extent, stalking of the victim, to take place. The whole intention of a first-degree murderer is to end another human’s life.

Three types of first-degree murder include:

  • Premeditated murder
  • Felony murder
  • Murder by specified means

Third Degree Murder

However, third degree murders are the complete opposite of first-degree murders. It is also known as manslaughter. Third-degree murder occurs when the defendant kills the victim unintentionally or accidentally.

In simple words, a 3rd degree murder is more than often involuntary, i.e., when an impulsive action or plan leads to someone’s death. Other times a third-degree murder could also be considered voluntary when the defendant hurts someone physically mildly. But, it accidentally leads to death.

Furthermore, according to Canadian laws, third-degree murder or manslaughter is divided into two categories.

  • Unlawful Act (the Involuntary Act)
  • Criminal Negligence (the Voluntary Act)

Difference Between 2nd and 3rd Degree Murders

2nd degree murders, as we understand, occur when the defendant kills the victim without any premeditated plans. It could be called an act of passion. It occurs when someone physically injures another person within an inch of life and ends up killing them. More than often, the murders are said to be intentional and unplanned.

3rd degree murders or manslaughter, however, refers to actually unintentional murders. The defendant here had no intention to murder or even hurt someone to the extent that they would die. The defendant, more than often, is just opting for harmless impulsive actions or perhaps, trying to let some steam off.

It must also be noted- most courts do not use third-degree charges. But, they prefer the charges of manslaughter instead for defendants who are in this ordeal. Third-degree murder is said to fall somewhere between second-degree murder and manslaughter.

While the above-given definition is correct, you must know in cases of third-degree murders. The murder must be unintentional, and the action has a tinge of malice involved in it.

Degrees of Intent Between Murder Charges

If a murder case needs to be considered first-degree murder, then the defendant or the murderer must plan the murder.

On the other hand, murder is considered second-degree murder. It is committed due to heat or spur of the moment. In that case, the defendant harms the other person enough to cause death. Below we will discuss the punishment that the accused person can get after judgment. If you want to know about charges, click here because we have explained everything.

Murder Punishment

You can read about the 1st-degree, 2nd-degree & 3rd-degree murder sentences. The defendant must abide by if charged with any of the murders in the list below.

  1. First-degree Murder
  • If a defendant is charged with first-degree murder, then they will get an automatic life imprisonment sentence.
  • They will not get parole for 25 years.
  1. Second-degree Murder
  • If a defendant is charged with second-degree murder, they will get ten years in prison with no parole.
  • Depending on the severity of the case and the situation around it, the defendant might also be sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for 25 years.
  1. Third-degree Murder or Manslaughter
  • There is no minimum sentence; in this case, however, there is a fine that the defendant must pay depending upon the severity of the situation.
  • But if a firearm is involved, the defendant will be sentenced to a minimum of four years in prison.

Statistics Related to 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, and Manslaughter in Canada

Statistics Canada reports that there were 788 homicides in Canada in 2021. This is an increase from the previous year of 2.06 per 100,000 persons.

Geography Canada (map)
Homicides 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Number of homicide victims 667 662 689 759 788
Rate per 100,000 population
Homicide rates per 100,000 population 1.83 1.79 1.83 2.00 2.06
Year-over-year percentage change in homicide rates 6.99 -2.14 2.59 8.90 3.25
Percentage change in homicide rates, 10-year comparison 0.54 -3.29 0.85 21.60 16.18

What is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree Murders

For a better understanding, below given are some examples of the murders we have discussed above.

First-Degree Murder

If person A wants to harm person B, then A will stalk and learn B’s activities. A will make a plan where and how they can murder B. A might notice that B lives alone. Then A decides to attack and murder B at night when B is getting ready for bed. A will catch B entirely off guard and most probably defenseless. Here, after B is dead, A can be charged with first-degree murder. We have explained it in an individual article here.

Elements of a 1st-Degree Murder

According to criminal law, a crime must contain the following three characteristics to be classified as first-degree murder:

  • Malice Aforethought – First-degree murder is always carried out with premeditation and malice. This legal phrase indicates that the offence was performed with a blatant disregard for human life and an obvious intention to kill or engage in other terrible deeds, like torturing.
  • Premeditation – First-degree murders are all planned-out crimes. This implies that despite any mental illnesses the murderer may have, the crime was intentional and planned. In some situations, the defendant deliberately planned the murder, perhaps even going out and getting a murder weapon or waiting for the victim to get home.
  • Intent – Last but not least, all first-degree murders are committed with malice aforethought. This indicates that the defendant intends to commit a crime, be it murder or another violent felony like robbery, arson, or kidnapping.

How is this Proven?

The government must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant planned and intentionally killed the victim in order to secure a conviction for first-degree murder. Additionally, the accused’s acts must have been a crucial component of the murder for the judge or jury to find them guilty.

Second-Degree Murder

Person X is angry with person Y for something Y said about X at a party. X decides to let the steam off and let his temper take control by hitting Y. X hits Y to an inch of his life and still does not stop even if X knows Y might die. Eventually, Y dies, and X is sentenced to second-degree murder. We have explained it in an individual article here.

Elements of 2nd-Degree Murders

According to criminal justice, the following factors must be present for a crime to be classified as second-degree murder:

  • Lacks premeditation – There is no premeditation or planning in a second-degree murder. Instead, homicides in this category are typically the consequence of irrational behaviour driven by anger, with no prior intention to kill the victim.
  • Intent to harm – All second-degree murders are committed with the intent to cause injury of some type, including the intent to kill, even though they are not premeditated.

How is this Proven?

Also, second-degree murder must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the Crown. The prosecution must show that the accused was the one who conducted the illegal act, that the illegal act resulted in the victim’s death, and that the accused intended to murder the victim.

Third-Degree Murder / Manslaughter

Person Z is a drug seller, and he knows selling drugs to other people will make them addicts and eventually take their lives. Person T buys drugs from Z and then dies from an overdose of those drugs. In this situation, Z can be charged with third-degree murder. We have explained it in an individual article here.

Person V and Person K are good friends, and they decide to go to a pool party. At the party, they get drunk, and V decides to push K into the pull just for fun. However, K does not know how to swim and drowns. Here, V can be charged with manslaughter.

We have explained it in an individual article here.

Elements of 3rd-Degree Murder

Each state that applies this categorization has specific legal criteria that must be met to categorize a crime as third-degree murder. Here are a few cases:

  • Non-violent felony murder – Third-degree murder charges may be brought against someone who unintentionally kills another person while doing one of the many non-violent crimes. The exception is some felonies related to drugs.
  • Depraved indifference murder – A murder committed with depraved indifference is classified as a third-degree murder rather than a second-degree murder. This is also referred to as negligent homicide and occurs when the defendant knows his or her careless action could result in death but commits it.
  • Drug delivery in death – Third-degree murder is defined as killing a person by giving the victim drugs, either directly or indirectly.

How is this Proven?

Manslaughter is defined as a crime that the accused committed while acting improperly but without intending to kill anyone. It can be difficult to prove the accused’s purpose in court. In many cases where murder may have been charged, a guilty plea to manslaughter is entered instead.

Comparison Table: First Degree vs Second Degree vs Third Degree vs Manslaughter

In the table below, the different types of murders are summarized.

First Degree Murder Second Degree Murder Third Degree Murder Manslaughter
Premeditated murder Unplanned murder Unplanned murder Unplanned murder
Intentional murder Intended to cause harm and committed impulsive murder Unintentional consequences Unintentional consequences
Life imprisonment;

No parole for 25 years

Ten years (with no parole) to life imprisonment Four years minimum if a firearm is involved Four years minimum if a firearm is involved

FAQ: Difference Between 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree Murders

Below discussed are some of the most frequently asked questions about first-degree, second-degree & third degree murders.

What is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree Murders?

The most serious homicide offence, first-degree murder, is always planned out and committed with deliberate intent. Second-degree murder involves deliberate action but not premeditation. The lowest level of criminal homicide, third-degree murder, is committed without premeditation or intent to kill.

What is Worse, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-Degree Felony?

The first-degree felony is the worst.

What are the Four Types of Homicide?

The four types of homicide include Capital Murder, Murder, Manslaughter, and Criminally Negligent Homicide.

What is an Example of Manslaughter?

If someone is texting and driving and running into someone or crashing their car into another car, killing the other party, it can be considered manslaughter.

How Many Years Do you Get in Jail for Manslaughter?

A maximum sentence is life imprisonment; if a firearm was involved during the murder, then a minimum of 4 years must be spent in prison.

Why is it Called the 3rd Degree?

Because it is a crime committed without intentions or plans.

What is the Highest Felony Degree?

Class A and level 1 felonies are of the highest degree.

What are 3rd-Degree Murder Sentences in Canada?

Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The punishment for manslaughter can range from four to 15 years, based on prior incidents. The sentencing judge will consider all of the evidence against the accused when deciding on a jail term.

What are 2nd-Degree Murder Sentences in Canada?

The punishment for second-degree murder is a sentence of imprisonment. It varies from state to state and the extent of the murder.

What are 1st-Degree Murder Sentences in Canada?

Situations Period Of  Sentence
In general 25 years
16 to 17 years old at the time of offending the crime 10 years
14 to 15 years old at the time of offending the crime 5-7 years