Murder & Assault Lawyer in Edmonton: Understanding Your Offences
Murder and assault are the most serious criminal offences and if convicted of murder, an accused is liable to a sentence of life imprisonment. An assault case may be more serious if the offence involves assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, or aggravated assault. Theses charges attract thorough police investigation, rigourous prosecution and the most punitive penalties of all criminal offences. Rod J.A. Gregory can represent you across the full spectrum of murder and assault charges. Depending on the type of charge you are facing, Mr. Gregory will take a specific approach to the defence of your charges.
The Criminal Code refers to homicide, which is the causing of death of another person. The Criminal Code is concerned with culpable homicide, which is murder, manslaughter or infanticide. Section 222(5) of the Criminal Code defines homicide as causing death by an unlawful act, due to criminal negligence, caused by threats of fear of violence or deception, or, in the case of a child or sick person, willful frightening. By contrast, non-culpable homicide is the killing of another person for reasons that are not criminal, caused completely by accident or in self-defence.
Section 229 of the Criminal Code refers to murder as the death of a human being where an individual intended to cause death or cause bodily harm that is likely to cause death and acted recklessly. Murder is classified as first or second degree murder. Both are meant to cause death and the intent does not need to be present throughout the act or series of actions or events. The difference is that first degree murder involves forethought and the intention to kill; the death is considered “planned and deliberate.” This is not the case with second degree murder.
The penalty for murder is life imprisonment, regardless of whether the verdict is first or second degree murder. The amount of time that must be served before being eligible for parole is different. The minimum period of imprisonment for first degree murder is 25 years and for second degree murder is 10 years, but in both cases a longer period may result.
Murder may be reduced to manslaughter under section 232(1) of the Criminal Code when the person who caused the death of another did so in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation. Provocation refers to a wrongful act or an insult that is sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control. Manslaughter is defined as a homicide where the accused did not intent to kill the victim.
For a finding of manslaughter, the crown must prove that there was an “objective foreseeability of the risk of bodily harm, which is neither trivial nor transitory, in the contact of a dangerous act,” but there is no need to establish a foreseeability of death. In other words, no premeditated intention needs to exist and instead the death must occur due to an assault.
For manslaughter, there is no minimum penalty and no minimum period to serve prior to being eligible for parole unless the accused used a firearm in the commission of the offence. If so, the mandatory minimum sentence is 4 years’ imprisonment. From a client’s point of view, the difference in results between a conviction for murder and manslaughter is significant.
There are also significant penalties for attempted murder which requires an intention to kill someone but they are not ultimately killed as a result of the act.
Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code establishes that an assault is committed when a person intentionally applies force to another person, directly or indirectly without that person’s consent. The accused either attempted or threatened, by an act or gesture, to apply force to another person or caused that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he or she had the ability to effect a purpose, or accosted, impeded or begged the other person while openly wearing or carrying a weapon. In other words, assault may be found even where there is no physical harm or degree of strength or power when touching a victim.
Many types of assault charges can be laid. The three most common types of assault charges: “simple assault”, “assault causing bodily harm” and “aggravated assault.” “Simple assault” is the application of force from a person’s extremities such as hands, legs or feet. Such charges include fights or assaults that do not result in serious injury, such as slapping, pushing, shoving, punching, or threatening behavior. Examples of simple assault include a bar fight, a spousal assault or a consensual fight where any injuries are minor or fleeting and not lasting.
- “Assault causing bodily harm” is a more serious charge that can result if serious injury occurs. Bodily harm includes:
- Cuts requiring stitches;
- Broken nose or other bones;
- Permanent damage or injury; or
- Semi-permanent injury requiring significant time to heal.
“Aggravated assault” is stronger form of assault resulting in substantial injury, such as one that is permanent (e.g., wound, maim, disfigurement) or endangers the life of another. Aggravated assault may include assault with a deadly weapon. For example, if a person stabs another individual and the person suffers from serious injuries, the accused is often charged with aggravated assault.
“Assault with a weapon” means that an instrument that can inflict bodily harm was used in the assault. Examples of such weapons include a stick, bat, switchblade, knife, gun, a dog ordered to attack a person, or a motor vehicle.
In situations where an accused is found guilty of assault, the type of sentence imposed often depends on the degree of harm caused. A “simple assault” charge may not result in jail time or in exceptional cases, no criminal record, but an aggravated assault may result in lengthy prison sentence of months or even several years.
Defences to Assault Charges
A number of defences to an assault charge may be accepted by the Court as the absence of criminal intention:
- Mistaken belief in consent;
- Self-defence or the protection of others;
- Reflex action, such as in response to a perceived and immediate threat;
- Consent of the party to whom the force was applied. This defence is common when someone gets hurt while playing sports, though it does not extend to serious injury resulting from a fist fight or brawl;
- Defence of property (e.g., where one believes another is taking or damaging property or trespassing);
- Prevention of a crime (e.g., when police use force to prevent an armed and dangerous person from firing); or
- Corporal punishment (spanking) of a child, though several exceptions exist. Since a 2004 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, corporal punishment is permitted only in the course of discipline and not in anger or frustration, not of a child under age two or a mentally challenged child, not of a teenager, not using an object or a slap or blow to the head, and not causing injury.
Rod Gregory – the Defence Lawyer
Rod J.A. Gregory is a senior criminal defence lawyer in Edmonton, with over 25 years of criminal law experience. He has defended clients on assault charges on many cases. He can skillfully take on your case and help you navigate the complexity of the criminal justice system. As the type of assault becomes more serious, so do the penalties imposed by the criminal justice system. Serious injuries and death also mean a more complicated defence. As your assault lawyer in Edmonton, Mr. Gregory will provide you with powerful representation.