What is Culpable Homicide?

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When someone kills a human being, they have committed culpable homicide.

  1. through the use of an illegal act;
  2. criminal negligence
  3. by pressuring that person to do any act that may result in his death through intimidation, fear of violence, deception;

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 offences. 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, the killing can be either culpable or non-culpable Homicide.

Criminal Code R.S.C 1985 definition of Homicide. According to section 222 (1), killing someone intentionally or unintentionally means committing Homicide.

Generally, Homicide is kinds:

  • Non-culpable homicide
  • Culpable Homicide

A non culpable homicide is not legally an offence. 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 intending to cause 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. It proves that the wrongdoer’s action is the main key point of proving culpable Homicide.

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 injury in the body, which may lead to death
  • Knowing the actions that could lead to death

Exception of the culpable Homicide:

If a person kills someone that doesn’t match the elements but has intention also counted as culpable Homicide. The person will be under the conviction of culpable Homicide and sentence of the law.

How The Law Determines Culpable Homicides of Different Types

One of the most serious crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada is intentionally taking someone’s life. If the accused does not have a criminal lawyer to represent him or her in court, it may result in imprisonment. However, as not all homicides are equal, the severity of the punishment varies depending on the type of murder accusations.

There are two categories of homicides: culpable and non-culpable. Non-culpable murder is when the accused is not held legally liable since it includes deaths brought on by self-defense. In culpable homicide, the accused is held legally responsible because the death can be brought on by a person intentionally or unintentionally.

First degree murder, second degree murder, infanticide, and manslaughter are the four main subcategories of culpable homicides under Canadian law when it comes to killing with criminal intent. Understanding the differences between these categories is essential if you or someone you know is facing homicide charges because it will help you determine where the accused falls on the severity scale of punishment.

Culpable Homicide vs. Manslaughter vs. Murder

There is a slight difference between Culpable Homicide, murder, and manslaughter.

Culpable Homicide:

Killing someone intentionally through an unlawful act or criminal negligence falls into the category of culpable Homicide. If the person dies from provocation, sudden rage, or something like that will be considered culpable Homicide.


Committing Homicide without the intention to cause death, but the intention was only to cause harm to the victim. Unfortunately, the victim dies due to bodily harm, which was meant to be causing harm only.


Murder generally occurs after committing culpable Homicide. Doing any conduct or bodily harm to the victim in a manner that is the leading cause of death of the person is called murder. If the person is killed in cold blood, it will be considered murder.

Common ingredients of Culpable Homicide, murder, and manslaughter

Causing Death

The intentional attempt is converted into death. The attempt will not be counted as murder without the victim’s death. It only counted as an attempt.

Doing an Act

Intentional attack or causing bodily harm is the leading cause of death. Only a direct connection of the injury resulting in death will be considered punishable.

Happening of The Act

The action must happen practically, which has a high chance of causing any death. In that case, the victim could be the second person, but doing the act is the main thing to consider. Without practical happening action, it will remain as a silent plan only.

The Bridge between Murder and Culpable Homicide

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;
  • By causing the victim to death by threatening or by, deception, or fear of violence;
  • Through criminal negligence;
  • They deliberately intimidated the victim; when the victim was a child or sick person.

If the accused person is involved with any of the above circumstances, he is guilty of 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 offence 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 offence, 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 offence. 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 offence, 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: Know the Difference

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 offence. 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 offence occurs when the mother’s mind is distressed due to giving birth or the following lactation.

The offence 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 a Lawyer 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 defence lawyer immediately.

A criminal defence 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.