Usually, murder is considered one of the most severe crimes in all criminal law. But the penalties for all murders are not the same. Because there are different types of murders, depending on the situation and the seriousness of the crime. 

In Canada, core types of murder include first-degree, second-degree murder. But what is the difference between them?

In this writing, we’ll give a proper comparison between first and second-degree murder. Keep reading.

First-degree murder vs. Second-degree murder: Difference and Comparison

First-degree murder is slightly different from second-degree murder. If you need to go to court to file for a murder crime, you need to distinguish between these types. Also, if you can know the Canada statute of limitations, it would be easier for you.

Here is a comparison as well as a significant difference between these two.

Definition of First-degree murder:

In very simple words, first-degree murder occurs when a person kills another person with full intention. Also, in first-degree murder, the act has to be pre-planned or premeditated with malicious intent. In other words, this is a form of homicide with pre-planning and malice aforethought.

First-degree murder is considered the most serious form of murder. And the charge for first-degree murder also will be very serious. Usually, in Canada, if someone commits first-degree murder, the consequence would be a death sentence or life imprisonment.

Definition of second-degree murder:

Second-degree murder is also like first-degree murder. But in this case, the murder is not pre-planned or premeditated. In this type of murder, the offender had the intention to do some harm to the victim but not murder.

But when that intention of harming ends up with killing, it will be considered as second-degree murder. The penalty of second-degree murder is also very serious, but it is not as serious as first-degree murder. If someone commits second-degree murder, in most cases, the sentence will be life imprisonment.

Basic differences between murder and manslaughter:

As you have known that what is murder is. But sometimes, people get confused between murder and manslaughter. Even in some countries, manslaughter is considered third-degree murder. To understand the differences between murder and manslaughter, you need to know the definition of manslaughter first.

In simple words, manslaughter is a murder case where the offender has neither any intention nor malice to kill another person. Since the killer did not have any malice aforethought, that is why it is less morally wrong in the sight of criminal law.

Though it is not as serious as murder, a felony, it is a very serious crime. The very basic difference between murder and manslaughter is the offender’s state of mind. In the murder case, the killer has either the planning or the intention of harming. 

On the other hand, manslaughter is fully unintentional and free from any malice aforethought.

Sentence for the first-degree murder:

When someone is convicted of first-degree murder, the penalty would be very serious because it is one of the most serious crimes in the sight of criminal law. The minimum sentence for first-degree murder would be life imprisonment. And the maximum penalty can be the death sentence.

The level of sentence can differ from case to case because all cases are not the same. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the penalty will be determined. In a first-degree murder case, if the sentence is lifetime imprisonment, there will be no chance for parole.

Usually, in such a murder case, the court divides the trial into two parts. In the first trial, the court will identify who is at guilt and who is at innocence. 

After that, in the second trial, the court will determine the sentence for the guilt. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court will determine a punishment between life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Sentence for the second-degree murder:

The second degree is less serious than first-degree murder, yet it is a serious violent crime. So the sentence can also be as severe as first-degree murder. Usually, the penalty for second-degree murder ends up with imprisonment. Now, the jail time can vary depending on the individual case.

But on average, it can be 4 years up to 48 years of imprisonment. If the case is very serious, the jail time also can be increased to a lifetime. In some cases, the offender also may have to pay some amount of fine for the offense. The fine amount can be $3,000 to $1,000,000 at a maximum.

Note that:

The court will determine the penalty depending on the situation of the case and other factors. Some cases that are really serious lead to severe penalties.

On the contrary, some cases happen for a particular situation. In such cases, the court will consider that situation and determine the penalty.


Regardless of the murder degree, if it is a murder, there will be some penalty for that. And in most cases, the penalty for murder cases will be very serious. That is why, if you are dealing with any of these cases, you should not waste any time. It would be better for you if you sought any professional help.

A professional lawyer can assist you in fighting your case. Also, they can represent your case in court. As a result, you can expect to have a better result from the court decision.

Hopefully, this writing helped you to understand the comparison between first-degree and second-degree murder.