Circumstances affecting criminal liability – Criminal Law

1. Justifying circumstances

The following do not incur any criminal liability:

1) Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur:

First. Unlawful aggression.

Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it.

Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

2) Any one who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural or adopted brothers or sisters, or his relatives by affinity in the same degrees and those consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided that the first and second requisites prescribed in the next preceding circumstance are present, and the further requisite, in case the revocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making defense had no part therein.

3) Anyone who acts in defense of the person or rights of a stranger, provided that the first and second requisites mentioned in the first circumstance of this Article are present and that the person defending be not induced by revenge, resentment, or other evil motive.

4) Any person who, in order to avoid an evil or injury, does not act which causes damage to another, provided that the following requisites are present;

First. That the evil sought to be avoided actually exists;

Second. That the injury feared be greater than that done to avoid it;

Third. That there be no other practical and less harmful means of preventing it.

5) Any person who acts in the fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office.

6) Any person who acts in obedience to an order issued by a superior for some lawful purpose. (Article 11, Ibid.)

2. Exempting circumstances

The following are exempt from criminal liability:

1) An imbecile or an insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval.

When the imbecile or an insane person has committed an act which the law defines as a felony (delito), 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.

2) A person under nine years of age.

3) A person over nine years of age and under fifteen, unless he has acted with discernment, in which case, such minor shall be proceeded against in accordance with the provisions of Art. 80 of this Code.

When such minor is adjudged to be criminally irresponsible, the court, in conformably with the provisions of this and the preceding paragraph, shall commit him to the care and custody of his family who shall be charged with his surveillance and education otherwise, he shall be committed to the care of some institution or person mentioned in said Art. 80.

4) Any person who, while performing a lawful act with due care, causes an injury by mere accident without fault or intention of causing it.

5) Any person who act under the compulsion of irresistible force.

6) Any person who acts under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury.

7) Any person who fails to perform an act required by law, when prevented by some lawful insuperable cause. (Article 12, Ibid.)

3. Mitigating circumstances

The following are mitigating circumstances;

1) Those mentioned in the preceding chapter, when all the requisites necessary to justify or to exempt from criminal liability in the respective cases are not attendant.

2) That the offender is under eighteen year of age or over seventy years. In the case of the minor, he shall be proceeded against in accordance with the provisions of Art. 80.

3) That the offender had no intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed.

4) That sufficient provocation or threat on the part of the offended party immediately preceded the act.

5) That the act was committed in the immediate vindication of a grave offense to the one committing the felony (delito), his spouse, ascendants, or relatives by affinity within the same degrees.

6) That of having acted upon an impulse so powerful as naturally to have produced passion or obfuscation.

7) That the offender had voluntarily surrendered himself to a person in authority or his agents, or that he had voluntarily confessed his guilt before the court prior to the presentation of the evidence for the prosecution;

8) That the offender is deaf and dumb, blind or otherwise suffering some physical defect which thus restricts his means of action, defense, or communications with his fellow beings.

9) Such illness of the offender as would diminish the exercise of the will-power of the offender without however depriving him of the consciousness of his acts.

10) And, finally, any other circumstances of a similar nature and analogous to those above mentioned. (Article 13, Ibid.)

4. Aggravating circumstances

The following are aggravating circumstances:

1) That advantage be taken by the offender of his public position.

2) That the crime be committed in contempt or with insult to the public authorities.

3) That the act be committed with insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his rank, age, or sex, or that is be committed in the dwelling of the offended party, if the latter has not given provocation.

4) That the act be committed with abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness.

5) That the crime be committed in the palace of the Chief Executive or in his presence, or where public authorities are engaged in the discharge of their duties, or in a place dedicated to religious worship.

6) That the crime be committed in the night time, or in an uninhabited place, or by a band, whenever such circumstances may facilitate the commission of the offense.

Whenever more than three armed malefactors shall have acted together in the commission of an offense, it shall be deemed to have been committed by a band.

7) That the crime be committed on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic or other calamity or misfortune.

8) That the crime be committed with the aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford impunity.

9) That the accused is a recidivist.

A recidivist is one who, at the time of his trial for one crime, shall have been previously convicted by final judgment of another crime embraced in the same title of this Code.

10) That the offender has been previously punished by an offense to which the law attaches an equal or greater penalty or for two or more crimes to which it attaches a lighter penalty.

11) That the crime be committed in consideration of a price, reward, or promise.

12) That the crime be committed by means of inundation, fire, poison, explosion, stranding of a vessel or international damage thereto, derailment of a locomotive, or by the use of any other artifice involving great waste and ruin.

13) That the act be committed with evidence premeditation.

14) That the craft, fraud or disguise be employed.

15) That advantage be taken of superior strength, or means be employed to weaken the defense.

16) That the act be committed with treachery (alevosia).

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.

17) That means be employed or circumstances brought about which add ignominy to the natural effects of the act.

18) That the crime be committed after an unlawful entry.

There is an unlawful entry when an entrance of a crime a wall, roof, floor, door, or window be broken.

20) That the crime be committed with the aid of persons under fifteen years of age or by means of motor vehicles, motorized watercraft, airships, or other similar means. (As amended by RA 5438).

21) That the wrong done in the commission of the crime be deliberately augmented by causing other wrong not necessary for its commissions. (Article 14, Ibid.)

5. Alternative circumstances

Alternative circumstances are those which must be taken into consideration as aggravating or mitigating according to the nature and effects of the crime and the other conditions attending its commission. They are the relationship, intoxication and the degree of instruction and education of the offender. (Article 15, Ibid.)

RELATIONSHIP: The alternative circumstance of relationship shall be taken into consideration when the offended party in the spouse, ascendant, descendant, legitimate, natural, or adopted brother or sister, or relative by affinity in the same degrees of the offender. (Paragraph 2, Article 15, Ibid.)

INTOXICATION: The intoxication of the offender shall be taken into consideration as a mitigating circumstances when the offender has committed a felony in a state of intoxication, if the same is not habitual or subsequent to the plan to commit said felony but when the intoxication is habitual or intentional, it shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance. (Paragrpah 3, Article 15, Ibid.)

6. Absolutory causes

a. Persons exempt from criminal liability

No criminal, but only civil liability, shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling or malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by the following persons:

1) Spouses, ascendants and descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line.

2) The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another; and

3) Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together. (Article 332, Ibid.)

STRANGERS, NOT EXEMPT: The exemption established by this article shall not be applicable to strangers participating in the commission of the crime. (Paragraph 2, Article 332, Ibid.)

CIVIL LIABILITY: Article 332 provides for an absolutory cause in the crimes of theft, estafa (or swindling) and malicious mischief. It limits the responsibility of the offender to civil liability and frees him from criminal liability by virtue of his relationship to the offended party. (Intestate Estate of Manolito Gonzales Vda. de Carungcong v. People, G.R. No. 181409, 11 February 2010)

a) Relationship by affinity included

AFFINITY, DEFINED: Affinity is the relation that one spouse has to the blood relatives of the other spouse. It is a relationship by marriage or a familial relation resulting from marriage. It is a fictive kinship, a fiction created by law in connection with the institution of marriage and family relations. (Ibid.)

COVERAGE OF IN-LAWS: In connection with the relatives mentioned in the first paragraph, it has been held that included in the exemptions are parents-in-law, stepparents and adopted children. By virtue thereof, no criminal liability is incurred by the stepfather who commits malicious mischief against his stepson; by the stepmother who commits theft against her stepson; by the stepfather who steals something from his stepson; by the grandson who steals from his grandfather; by the accused who swindles his sister-in-law living with him; and by the son who steals a ring from his mother. (Ibid.)

EXTENDS TO IN-LAWS EVEN AFTER DEATH OF SPOUSE: Relationship by affinity between the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not. Under this view, the relationship by affinity endures even after the dissolution of the marriage that produced it as a result of the death of one of the parties to the said marriage. This view considers that, where statutes have indicated an intent to benefit step-relatives or in-laws, the “tie of affinity” between these people and their relatives-by-marriage is not to be regarded as terminated upon the death of one of the married parties. (Ibid.)


⦁ Book I, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code

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