What is an Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence?

What is an Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence

Do you know what is an involuntary manslaughter sentence? Involuntary manslaughter is a serious offence, but the sentencing reflects the accidental nature of the death compared to murder. In Canada, the crown treats Involuntary Manslaughter crimes differently depending on the intent and circumstances. Let’s learn the definition, reasons for the charge, potential sentences, and how it differs from other homicide charges.

What is an Involuntary Manslaughter?

In Canada, involuntary manslaughter is when someone’s actions cause death, but there was no intention to kill. It can happen through recklessness (criminal negligence) or a minor crime accidentally resulting in death.  

Unlike murder, it carries a range of involuntary manslaughter sentences. Life imprisonment is the most severe sentence but not an automatic punishment.

Types of Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence

Canadian law recognizes two main types of involuntary manslaughter: 

  • Criminal negligence manslaughter
  • Unlawful act manslaughter

Criminal Negligence Manslaughter

Criminal Negligence Manslaughter occurs when someone shows a wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others, and their actions cause a death. 

Example: Driving under the influence at high speeds and causing a fatal accident would likely fall under criminal negligence manslaughter.

Unlawful Act Manslaughter

 Manslaughter happens when someone commits a criminal act, even a minor one, and it unintentionally results in death. The key here is that the death was not the intended outcome of the crime.

Example: During a shoplifting attempt, a struggle ensues with the store owner, and the owner accidentally hits their head and dies. This could be considered an unlawful act of manslaughter.

Why is it Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence in Canadian Law?

The key distinction between involuntary manslaughter and murder lies in the mental state of the accused. In involuntary manslaughter, there’s no malice for a thought, meaning there wasn’t a plan or premeditation to cause harm.

What’s the Sentence for Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter sentences in Canada vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.  Generally, it’s treated as a felony and can result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 

But, judges consider various factors when deciding the sentence,  including the level of guilt and the offender’s criminal history. Sentences typically range from probation to several years in prison.

What is the Gross Negligence Caused By Involuntary Manslaughter?

Gross negligence is a key element in criminal negligence manslaughter. It involves a more powerful degree of carelessness than simple negligence. It shows a blatant disregard for the safety of others, creating a foreseeable risk of serious harm or death.

What is the Definition of Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter differs from involuntary manslaughter in that there’s an intention to cause harm, but it arises from a sudden provocation or intense emotional state. This could be a situation where someone acts out of passion after witnessing a crime or experiencing extreme emotional distress.

What are the Possible Defences for Manslaughter?

Depending on the circumstances, a lawyer might argue self-defence, accident, or intoxication as defences for manslaughter charges.  These defences aim to show the absence of criminal intent or a mitigating factor in the accused’s actions.

Can You Go to Jail for Not Saving Someone?

There’s no general duty to act in Canada. After witnessing danger, you won’t be jailed for inaction. But, there could be legal consequences if you create the risk or have a special relationship (parent-child) for not helping. Remember, prioritize your own safety, but if you can help without harm, it’s a good thing to do.

What are the Penalties for Manslaughter?

Unlike murder, manslaughter offers a wider range of sentences. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Maximum Penalty: Life imprisonment is a possibility, but not automatic.

[Life Imprisonment Details] Parole eligibility starts after 7 years, but the court can delay it up to 10 years.

  • Other Sentences: Manslaughter convictions often result in sentences other than life.

[Example: A 9-year sentence allows parole after 3 years served.]

  • Firearm Minimum: If a firearm is involved, a minimum 4-year sentence applies (parole possible after serving 1/3rd).

How Do Lawyers Make Strategy for Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence Cases?

Discrediting the Prosecution

The lawyer will analyze the Crown’s case, searching for weaknesses or inconsistencies with some questions:

  • Did the client’s actions truly cause death
  • Were there unforeseen circumstances?

Inconclusive evidence can raise reasonable doubt.

Proving No Malice

A core element of involuntary manslaughter is the absence of intent to kill. The lawyer will emphasize the accidental nature of the death and the client’s lack of malice aforethought. They may present evidence of the client’s character or past actions to support this.

Reducing Culpability

Not all involuntary manslaughter is created equal. The lawyer might argue for a lesser offence depending on the circumstances.  For instance, they could push for criminal negligence causing death (reckless behaviour) instead of unlawful act manslaughter.

Exploring Defenses

Depending on the case’s specifics, self-defence, accident, or intoxication might be viable defences. The lawyer will investigate these possibilities to demonstrate the absence of criminal intent.

Negotiating a Sentence

The lawyer will try to secure a lighter sentence if a conviction seems likely. They will present mitigating factors like the client’s remorse or lack of criminal history to convince the court of a lesser punishment.


Involuntary manslaughter is a complex legal matter with varying degrees of guilt. Understanding the distinctions between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter and potential defences is crucial for anyone facing such charges. Consulting with a lawyer is vital to navigating the legal process effectively if you find yourself in this situation.


What’s the highest sentence for Involuntary Manslaughter?

In Canada, the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is life in prison. This doesn’t mean everyone receives the same punishment. Judges consider the circumstances of the crime scene. But it highlights the seriousness of the offence, even if unintentional.

What are the consequences of Involuntary Manslaughter?

In Canada, involuntary manslaughter carries a heavy weight. Though not an automatic life sentence, it’s a possibility. More common are sentences of several years in prison. Beyond jail time, the conviction can cause social stigma job loss, and limit future opportunities. 

What are some defences for involuntary manslaughter?

A lawyer might argue self-defence, accident, or intoxication, depending on the case. These defences aim to show the absence of criminal intent or a mitigating factor.