What Is The Difference Between Manslaughter And Self-Defence?

December 16, 2021

What Is The Difference Between Manslaughter And Self-Defence?

Charges pertaining to murder and manslaughter are almost always accompanied by claims of self-defence. Many states have legalized self-defence which is why individuals charged with murder or manslaughter end up claiming self-defence. These claims can alter the course of a criminal case significantly.

If the accused is able to provide successful proof of self-defence, he/she will not be convicted for being criminally responsible for murder.

Many people still don’t understand the difference between manslaughter and self-defence. In this blog, we have discussed in detail what the difference is between manslaughter, murder and self-defence.


When talking about homicide, we usually refer to murder. However, it is important to understand that there are three different types of murder. They are usually categorized as first-degree murder, second-degree murder and third-degree murder or manslaughter.

If we look at the legal definition, murder is an unlawful killing of another human being. It is often proven if there is premeditation and intention. A person can also be convicted for murder if he/she gave consideration to the killing and the performed actions resulted in death even if at the time of the crime there was no intention or ill will.


Manslaughter is defined as a homicide that was committed without intent, although there may have been an intention to cause harm. It is divided into two categories:

Unlawful act: when a crime that is committed unintentionally results in the death of another person.

Criminal negligence: Death of a person as a result of an act or a failure to act that showed wanton or reckless disregard for the lives of others.

In most jurisdictions, manslaughter is considered a lesser crime than murder. Since there was no intention of killing in the first place, the penalty for manslaughter is lenient as compared to murder.

However, there have been cases where manslaughter was elevated to murder and murder was considered manslaughter.


Most legal systems have provisions that allow individuals to protect themselves if they are attacked, which is why if someone is killed in self-defence, it is not considered a crime.

However, according to the new Canadian Law, the triggering threat has to be ‘assessed on a combined subjective (i.e. what the accused honestly believed) and objective (i.e. would the “reasonable person” also share the accused’s belief) basis, consistent with the various versions of the old defence.’

The accused has to prove that he/she had to use force to protect himself/herself or a third person from harm. In most cases, to make a case like this, you have to hire a lawyer. If you don’t have any knowledge of the law, it is advised that you hire a criminal defence lawyer proficient with murder cases as this will be your only chance of coming out of a situation like this.

In addition to this, a lawyer will also analyze if self-defence applies to your case or not. He/she will also identify other factors that may strengthen or weaken your case.

According to Canadian law, ‘the nature and degree of the threat may impact differently upon the determination of whether the accused genuinely responded with a defensive purpose, and whether the actions taken were reasonable in the circumstances.’

In addition to this, the law also has certain provisions when it comes to accidental killings. This is often applied if the actions of the defendant did not rise to a criminal level.

For more information about how the Canadian jurisdiction treats self-defence, follow this link.

About Slaferek Law

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If you are scrambling with murder charges or are looking for a good criminal defence lawyer to fight your case, our team of trained lawyers can help you build a strong case. We have successfully closed hundreds of cases pertaining to murder, DUI, financial fraud and more.

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