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Provocation and murder

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released their decision in R. v. Tran, a case about a murder that occurred loosely in the context of a domestic assault. The case concerned the quasi-defence of provocation.

Provocation exists as a partial defence only to the charge of murder. Although raising and successfully establishing provocation at trial will not result in an acquittal, it can reduce a first- or second-degree murder conviction to one of manslaughter. A murder conviction carries with it the harshest sentence our criminal justice system can impose: life in prison.

The only substantive difference between a conviction for first-degree murder and second-degree murder is in sentencing. First-degree murder has a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for twenty five years. Second-degree murder has a mandatory minimum of life, with no possibility of parole for ten years. Manslaughter, however, has no minimum sentence. Thus, the importance of establishing provocation in some instances is quite clear.

Some facts about drinking and driving

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the changes to the law of drinking and driving in British Columbia. There has been a lot of controversy about the new laws, which will be a feature of discussion on this blog. In this post, I hope to outline a little bit about drinking and driving offences and their history in Canada.

What are the offences?

In British Columbia, the Motor Vehicle Act prevents anyone from operating a motor vehicle with an excess of 50mg of alcohol in 100mL of blood. Those who are caught with a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.05mg% will be served a 3, 7, or 30 day driving prohibition, dependent on their driving record. This prohibition is known as an Immediate Roadside Prohibition. Your vehicle will also be impounded, and you will be responsible for the towing and storage costs associated with this. You are also made to pay a fine and the cost of reinstating your license after your prohibition has ended.