1. Criminal liabilities and felonies

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

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FELONIES: Acts and omissions punishable by law are felonies (delitos). (Article 3, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code)

DOLO; CULPA: Felonies are committed not only be means of deceit (dolo) but also by means of fault (culpa). (Paragraph 2, Article 3, Ibid.)

DECEIT; FAULT: There is deceit when the act is performed with deliberate intent and there is fault when the wrongful act results from imprudence, negligence, lack of foresight, or lack of skill. (Paragraph 2, Article 3, Ibid.)

a. When criminal liability is incurred

Criminal liability shall be incurred:

1) By any person committing a felony (delicto) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

2) By any person performing an act which would be an offense against persons or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or an account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means. (Article 4, Ibid.)

Under No. 1, it exemplifies praeter intentionem. Under this paragraph, a person may be convicted of homicide although he had no original intent to kill. (People v. Ortega, Jr., G.R. No. 116736, 24 July 1997)

Under No. 2, the act performed by the offender cannot produce an offense against persons or property because: (1) the commission of the offense is inherently impossible of accomplishment; or (2) the means employed is either (a) inadequate or (b) ineffectual. (Intod v. CA, G.R. No. 103119, 21 October 1992)

a. Classification of felonies (grave, less grave and light felonies)

1) Light felonies

Light felonies are those infractions of law or the commission of which the penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000) or both is provided. (Paragraph 3, Article 9, Ibid.)

Light felonies are punishable only when they have been consummated, with the exception of those committed against person or property. (Article 7, Ibid.)

2) Less grave felones

Less gave felonies are those which the law punishes with penalties which in their maximum period are correctional in accordance with abovementioned article. (Paragraph 2, Article 9, Ibid.)

3) Grave felonies

Grave felonies are those to which the law attaches the capital punishment or penalties which in any of their periods are afflictive, in accordance with Article 25 of this Code. (Article 9, Ibid.)

b. Aberratio ictus, error in personae, and praeter intentionem

ABERRATIO ICTUS: Aberratio ictus refers to the mistake in the blow. (People v. Gemoya, En Banc, G.R. No. 132633, 04 October 2000)

ERROR IN PERSONAE: Error in personae refers to mistake of the person. (Ibid.)

Mistake in the identity of the victim may either be:

1) “error in personae” (mistake of the person); or,

2) “aberratio ictus” (mistake in the blow). (People v. Gemoya, En Banc, G.R. No. 132633, 04 October 2000)

PRAETER INTENTIONEM: Praeter intentionem refers to lack of intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed. (Nizurtado v. Sandiganbayan, En Banc, G.R. No. 107383, 07 December 1994)

NB: Praeter intentionem is related to Paragraph 1, Article 4, RPC: Criminal liability shall be incurred… by any person committing a felony (delicto) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

c. Impossible crime

The requisites of an impossible crime are:

1) That the act performed would be an offense against persons or property;

2) That the act was done with evil intent; and,

3) That its accomplishment was inherently impossible, or the means employed was either inadequate or ineffectual. (Jacinto v. People, G.R. No. 162540, 13 July 2009)

NB: Impossible crime is related to Paragraph 2, Article 4, RPC: Criminal liability shall be incurred… by any person performing an act which would be an offense against persons or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or an account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means.

Examples of an impossible crime, which formerly was not punishable but is now under article 59 of the Revised Penal Code, are the following:

1) When one tries to kill another by putting in his soup a substance which he believes to be arsenic when in fact it is common salt; and

2) When one tries to murder a corpse. (People v. Balmores, En Banc, G.R. No. L-1896, 16 February 1950, citing Guevara, Commentaries on the Revised Penal Code, 4th ed., page 15; decision, Supreme Court of Spain, November 26, 1879; 12 Jur. Crim., 343.,)

 Judging from the appearance of the falsified ticket in question, we are not prepared to say that it would have been impossible for the appellant to consummate the crime of estafa thru falsification of said ticket if the clerk to whom it was presented for the payment had not exercised due care.

d. Stages of execution

Consummated felonies as well as those which are frustrated and attempted, are punishable. (Article 6, Ibid.)

1) Consummated

A felony is consummated when all the elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present. (Paragraph 2, Article 6, Ibid.)

2) Frustrated

A felony is frustrated when the offender performs all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator. (Paragraph 2, Article 6, Ibid.)

3) Attempted

There is an attempt when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly or over acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than this own spontaneous desistance. (Paragraph 3, Article 6, Ibid.)

e. Continuing crimes

CONTINUING CRIME: There are crimes which are called transitory or continuing offenses because some acts material and essential to the crime occur in one province and some in another, in which case, the rule is settled that the court of either province where any of the essential ingredients of the crime took place has — jurisdiction to try the case. (Parulan v. Director of Prisons, En Banc, G.R. No. L-28519, 17 February 1968)

vs. CONTINUED CRIME: A continued crime is a single crime consisting of a series of acts but all arising from one criminal resolution. It is a continuous, unlawful act or series of acts set on foot by a single impulse and operated by an unintermittent force, however long a time it may occupy. Although there are series of acts, there is only one crime committed. Hence, only one penalty shall be imposed. (Mallari v. People, G.R. No. L-58886, 13 December 1988)

f. Complex crimes and composite crimes

1) Complex crimes

COMPLEX CRIMES: When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period. (Article 48, Ibid.)

SAME; HOW TO KNOW IF A COMPLEX CRIME: In order to determine whether two offenses constitute a complex crime, we should not find out whether, in accordance with their definition by law, one of them is an essential element of the other, such as physical injuries which cause the death of the victim, or stealing of personal property without the consent of the owner through force or violence, for in such cases there would be only one single offense of homicide in the first and robbery in the second case. But we should take into consideration the facts alleged in a complaint or information and determine whether one of the two separate and different offenses charged therein was committed as a necessary means to commit the other offense; if it were the two offenses constitute one complex crime; otherwise the complaint or information charges two crimes or offenses independent from one another. (Parulan v. Rodas, En Banc, G.R. No. L-1536, 31 July 1947)

SAME; TWO (2) KINDS OF COMPLEX CRIMES: In a complex crime, two or more crimes are actually committed, however, in the eyes of the law and in the conscience of the offender they constitute only one crime, thus, only one penalty is imposed. There are two kinds of complex crime. The first is known as a compound crime, or when a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies while the other is known as a complex crime proper, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other. The classic example of the first kind is when a single bullet results in the death of two or more persons. A different rule governs where separate and distinct acts result in a number killed. Deeply rooted is the doctrine that when various victims expire from separate shot, such acts constitute separate and distinct crimes. (People v. Nelmida, En Banc, G.R. No. 184500, 11 September 2012)

Case Law

1) The crime of falsification of a private document is not in general, an essential element of the crime of estafa, because this offense may be committed through many and varied means; but if a defendant is charged in a complaint or information with having committed falsification of a private document as a means for committing estafa, the offense charged would be a complex offense of estafa through falsification. Also, abduction is, in general, not an essential element of rape because rape may be committed anywhere without necessity of forcibly abducting or taking the victim to another place for that purpose; but if the offense charged is that the defendant abducted or carried by force the victim from one place to another wherein the latter was raped by the former, the crime charged would be a complex crime of rape through abduction, the abduction being in such a case a necessary means to commit the rape. And although homicide or murder may be committed wherever the victim may be found, yet if the charge in a complaint or information is that the victim was kidnapped and taken to another distant place in order to demand ransom for his release and kill him if ransom is not paid, the offense charged would evidently be a complex crime of murder through kidnapping, the latter being a necessary means to commit the former. (Parulan v. Rodas, supra.)

2) Composite crimes

COMPOSITE CRIMES: A composite crime, also known as a special complex crime, is composed of two or more crimes that the law treats as a single indivisible and unique offense for being the product of a single criminal impulse. It is a specific crime with a specific penalty provided by law, and differs from a compound or complex crime. (People v. Villaflores, G.R. No. 184926, 11 April 2012)

Case Law

1) The law on rape defines and sets forth the composite crimes of attempted rape with homicide and rape with homicide. In both composite crimes, the homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion of rape. As can be noted, each of said composite crimes is punished with a single penalty, the former with reclusion perpetua to death, and the latter with death. (Ibid.)

b) Distinction

In a composite crime, the composition of the offenses is fixed by law; in a complex or compound crime, the combination of the offenses is not specified but generalized, that is, grave and/or less grave, or one offense being the necessary means to commit the other. For a composite crime, the penalty for the specified combination of crimes is specific; for a complex or compound crime, the penalty is that corresponding to the most serious offense, to be imposed in the maximum period. A light felony that accompanies a composite crime is absorbed; a light felony that accompanies the commission of a complex or compound crime may be the subject of a separate information. (Ibid.)

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