Escape criminal liability

LAW EACH WEEK

How can a person escape from criminal liability?

The presence of an exempting circumstance allows a person to escape from criminal liability by way of exception. In all exempting circumstances, there is a question of the presence and quality of intent. Such will determine the validity of an exempting circumstance put up as a defense.

What are these exempting circumstances identified under the law?

The following are the exempting circumstances enumerated under the Revised Penal Code:

1. Imbecility or insanity, unless an insane person (not an imbecile) acted in a lucid interval

2. Persons under 9 years old

3. Persons above 9 years old but below 15 if they didn’t act with discernment

4. A person performing a lawful act with due care but causes injury by mere accident without fault or the intention to cause the injury

5. Any person compelled by an irresistible force (like having a gun put to his head, for example)

6. Any person acting under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury (like a death threat or hostage-taking)

7. If a person who is required to perform an act required by law but is prevented by a lawful or insuperable cause

Is an imbecile and an insane person the same?

No. In the case of People of the Philippines vs. Ambal, an imbecile is a person marked by mental deficiency while an insane person is one who has an unsound mind or suffers from a mental disorder.

What happens then if an imbecile or an insane killed someone?

When the imbecile or an insane person has committed an act which the law defines as a felony (delito) such as murder, the court shall order his confinement in one of the hospitals or asylums established for persons thus afflicted, which he shall not be permitted to leave without first obtaining the permission of the same court.

Is an insane person or imbecile totally exempted from criminal liability?

No. An insane person is exempted only from criminal liability unless he has acted during a lucid interval. If the court therefore finds the accused insane when the alleged crime was committed, he shall be acquitted but the court shall order his confinement in a hospital or asylum for treatment until he may be released without danger. An acquittal of the accused does not result in his outright release, but rather in a verdict which is followed by commitment of the accused to a mental institution.