What is Culpable Homicide?

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It is said that every murder can be a culpable homicide but not every culpable homicide is murder. There is a thin line between culpable homicide and murder. So, what does culpable homicide mean?

Culpable homicide is a category of offenses. It is defined in the Criminal Code – an act passed by the Parliament of Canada. The murder itself is the aggravated category of culpable homicide. Manslaughter and infanticide are the remaining categories.

Different countries define culpable homicide with different meanings.  Such as, in Scotland, it indicates the death happened due to someone’s negligence or action.

It is essential to know what homicide is before learning more about culpable homicide.

What is Homicide?

Homicide is the unjust killing of a human being. The first step in declaring any death a homicide is determining whether it is self-inflicted or caused by another. In the Criminal Code, it is categorized as either culpable or non culpable homicide.

A non culpable homicide is not legally an offense. This homicide occurs through the justified use of force by the military, police, and civilians’ self-defense. So a non culpable homicide is justified in the Criminal Code.

What is Culpable Homicide?

When a murder takes place with the intention of causing death, it can be classified as culpable homicide. Or with the knowledge that this act can cause death or the intent to cause death is to hurt someone.

As a form of criminal homicide, culpable homicide means that there was or was not intended to kill someone. There are three categories of culpable homicide, including murder, manslaughter, and infanticide.

The elements for culpable homicides are;

  • An unlawful act of killing a human being
  • The intention of causing death
  • The intention of causing harmful injury in the body which may lead to death
  • Knowing the actions that could lead to death

Culpable Homicide vs Murder

There is a difference between culpable homicide and murder. Killing a person directly or indirectly by any means is murder. On the other hand, culpable homicide requires some sort of intent or criminal negligence.

This further indicates whether the murder is preceded by malice aforethought on the part of the accused.

The murder of a human being can be a culpable homicide if it occurs;

  • Through an illegal act;
  • Through causing the victim to death by threatening or by deception or by fear of violence;
  • Through criminal negligence;
  • Deliberately intimidating the victim; when the victim is a child or sick person.

If the accused person is involved with any of the above circumstances, he is culpable in a sentence. The reason is that the accused person contributes significantly to the victim’s death.

As listed under section. 231(5) of the Criminal Code – in kidnapping, hijacking, or sexual assault, the accused person is integral to the victim’s death. The jury or judge must also be convinced that the accused caused the incident.

First-degree Murder

There are many ways to determine a culpable homicide as first-degree murder. The popular way is to determine whether the murder is planned and deliberated. Here planned means to an intended scheme that has been thought out carefully before it was performed.

Deliberated, on the other hand, means considered but not impassioned. However, the condition for first-degree murder cannot always be planned and deliberated. Killing a law enforcement officer during their duty can be considered first-degree murder.

The death for the following reasons can also be considered first-degree murder.

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual assault with a weapon
  • Hijacking
  • Hostage-taking
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorist activity
  • Intimidation
  • Criminal harassment
  • An offense on behalf of or at the direction of a criminal organization

Second-degree Murder

In the Criminal Code, all murder that is not first-degree murder is defined as second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is known as death that occurs with an intent to cause death or cause bodily harm.

Penalty for Murder

If any adult is sentenced to murder in Canada, the mandatory sentence is a life sentence. However, the sentencing command requires a legal minimum age of 14. It doesn’t apply unless they are 14.

In general circumstances, life imprisonment comes for first-degree murder with no likelihood of parole for 25 years. If the offender was 16 or 17 years old during the offense, the parole period is 10 years.

Moreover, the parole period is 5-7 years when the offender was 14 or 15 years old during the offense. In the case of second-degree murder, life imprisonment comes with no likelihood of parole for 10-25 years.

If someone previously convicted of murder committed the offense, the parole period is 25 years. Similarly, the parole period is 7 years, when the offender is 16 or 17 years during the crime.

Culpable Homicide vs Manslaughter

According to the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, section. 234; if a culpable homicide is not murder or infanticide, then it is manslaughter. It’s an unlawful act of killing a person due to mitigating surroundings.

Since the death was not done with intent, it is not considered murder. There was no forethought of causing the death. Instead, it is sometimes addressed as culpable manslaughter.

However, there are two types of manslaughter;

  • Voluntary manslaughter: This type of homicide is caused by persuasion. The individual was provoked to such an extent that the homicide took place. Since there was no intention, this homicide doesn’t meet the nature of the murder.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: It denotes the homicide that the individual committed without intent. Involuntary manslaughter occurs mostly because of criminal negligence, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drug.
  • There are two types of involuntary manslaughter – criminal negligence manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter.

Penalty for Manslaughter

An individual who commits manslaughter is guilty of a criminal offense. Indeed, manslaughter is a serious crime, but its penalty is generally less than that for murder. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is imprisonment for life. Similarly, the minimum penalty is imprisonment for four years.


Infanticide is the killing of a specifically newborn child by the child’s mother. The offense occurs when the mother’s mind is distressed due to giving birth or the following lactation.

The offense is considered infanticide when the mother is not fully recovered from the effect of giving birth. However, the punishment for infanticide is imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.


1. What is Culpable Homicide?

Culpable homicide is the offense of killing an individual to cause death or cause bodily harm. A person who is capable of murder commits the crime of culpable homicide with the knowledge of causing death.

2. What is the Punishment of Culpable Homicide?

The punishment of culpable homicide may be life imprisonment or imprisonment for 5-25 years. The degree of penalty depends on the nature of the offense.

3. What is a Culpable Homicide Example?

Let's say a person pushes the victim into a deep hole to cause death. As a result, the victim falls into the hole and dies or gets a bodily injury. Here the person who pushes the victim has committed the offense of culpable homicide.

4. What is the Difference Between Homicide and Culpable Homicide?

Homicide is the act of killing an individual. Culpable homicide, on the other hand, is the act of killing an individual with the intent to kill.

5. Is Culpable Homicide a Bailable Offence?

Not all culpable homicides are of the same types. In some cases, culpable homicides can be a bailable offense. Here the judge must be convinced that the crime was not intentional by any means.

6. Which Section Defines Culpable Homicide?

The Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46 defines culpable homicide as murder or manslaughter, or infanticide.

Contact an Attorney If You are Charged with Culpable Homicide

The consequences of culpable homicide can be severe. You can face serious accusations. If you are under investigation for any culpable homicide, you need a criminal defense attorney immediately.

A criminal defense lawyer has the necessary experience and legal skills to handle such charges. They could understand how much your case is at stake. Talk to an experienced attorney who can work sincerely to help minimize the penalties.