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Unlawful Arrest, A69 Revised Penal Code

Unlawful arrest – refers to the offense of arresting or detaining another without any authorization or reasonable ground, to deliver the latter to the proper authorities.

1. Concept

Unlawful arrest – refers to the offense of arresting or detaining another without any authorization or reasonable ground, to deliver the latter to the proper authorities.

The crime of unlawful arrest punishes an offender’s act of arresting or detaining another to deliver him or her to the proper authorities, when the arrest or detention is not authorized, or that there is no reasonable ground to arrest or detain the other. (Duropan v. People, G.R. No. 230825, June 10, 2020, Per Leonen, J.)

a. Legal basis

Art. 269. Unlawful arrest. – The penalty of arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) shall be imposed upon any person who, in any case other than those authorized by law, or without reasonable ground therefor, shall arrest or detain another for the purpose of delivering him to the proper authorities. (As amended by R.A. 10951)

(Revised Penal Code)

2. Modes of commission

The following are the modes of committing the offense:

1) By unlawfully or illegally arresting or detaining another for the purpose of delivering him to the proper authorities

a. Mode 1: Lorem

Elements of the crime of unlawful arrest:

1) That the offender arrests or detains another person;

2) That the arrest or detention is to deliver the person to the proper authorities; and

3) That the arrest or detention is not authorized by law or that there is no reasonable ground to. (Duropan v. People, G.R. No. 230825, 10 June 2020)

Element 1: Arrest or detain

For the 1st element, the offender arrests or detains another.

[A]ny person may be indicted for the crime of unlawful arrest. (Duropan v. People, supra.)

To be clear, unlawful arrest may be committed by either a public officer or a private individual.

[U]nder the law, members of the Insular Police or Constabulary [now: Police Officers] as well as those of the municipal police and of chartered cities like Manila and Baguio, and even of townships… may make arrests without judicial warrant, not only when a crime is committed or about to be committed in their presence, but also when there is reason to believe or sufficient ground to suspect that one has been committed and that it was committed by the person arrested by them… An arrest made under said circumstances is not unlawful but perfectly justified[.] (People v. Malasugi, En Banc, G.R. No. L-44335, July 30, 1936, Per Diaz, J., cited in Duropan v. People, supra.)

Malasugui inferred that a public officer who does not have the authority to arrest shall be criminally liable. Even when a public officer is authorized to arrest, he or she must have a judicial warrant. However, when the enumerated circumstances exist, the absence of a judicial warrant is justified and does not expose the public officer to criminal liability. (Duropan v. People, supra.)

Element 2: Deliver to proper authorities

For the 2nd element, the arrest or detainment is for the purpose of delivering the other person to the proper authorities.

In the crime of unlawful arrest, the offender who arrested or detained another intended to deliver the apprehended person to the proper authorities, considering he or she does not have the authority. This act of conducting the apprehended persons to the proper authorities takes the offense out of the crime of illegal detention. (Duropan v. People, supra.)

If the purpose was other than to deliver the arrested/detained person to the proper authorities, depending on the circumstances, then it may constitute another offense such as serious kidnapping, slight illegal detention, or illegal arrest.

Duropan v. People, G.R. No. 230825, June 10, 2020, Per Leonen, J.:

• As early as 1908, in United States v. Fontanilla, this Court had differentiated unlawful arrest from illegal detention. [S.] Fontanilla (Fontanilla) found [A.] de Peralta (de Peralta), [E.] Navalta (Navalta), and several laborers tilling his land. De Peralta insisted that the land was his brother’s. A fight ensued, which ended when Fontanilla captured and tied de Peralta and Navalta with a rope. He then brought them to the municipal jail.

• The trial court ruled that Fontanilla was guilty of illegal detention under Article 481 of the old Penal Code. This Court modified the ruling, and held that Fontanilla was not guilty of illegal detention, but of unlawful detention under Article 483 of the Penal Code, the precursor to unlawful arrest under Article 269 of the Revised Penal Code:

• It does not appear that the persons whom the accused arrested committed any crime which would justify their arrest without warrant by a peace officer, and the evidence of record leaves no room for doubt that there was no justification whatever for their arrest by a private person. The accused was not a peace officer, and was not exercising any public function when he made the arrest, nor did he have any authority to seize trespassers upon his land and commit them to the public jail, yet the fact remains that he did apprehend and detain these parties, and turn them over to the authorities.

• Article 483 of the Penal Code provides that any person who, cases permitted by law being excepted, shall without sufficient reason, apprehend or detain another, in order to turn him over to the authorities, shall be punished with the penalties of arresto menor and the fine of 325 to 3,250 pesetas, and the offense committed by the accused clearly falls under the provisions of this article. The trial court was of opinion that the offense committed is that prescribed by article 481, which provides that any private person who shall lock up or detain another, or in any way deprive him of his liberty shall be punished with the penalty of prision mayor. We think, however, that the fact that the accused, after he had apprehended the complaining witnesses, immediately conducted them to the municipal jail, and thus turned them over to the authorities, takes the offense out of that article and brings it within the purview of article 483.

a) Warrantless arrests

Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure permits warrantless arrests in certain instances. A public officer who does not have the official duty to arrest or detain may lawfully do so, and effect a citizen’s arrest. (Duropan v. People, supra.)

Element 3: Unauthorized or no reasonable ground

For the 3rd element, the arrest or detainment was neither authorized by law nor with reasonable ground is the gravamen of the offense.

Otherwise, if the arrest or detainment was authorized by law or with reasonable ground, such as offenders being caught in flagrante delicto or authorities in the process of serving a warrant of arrest, then there is no offense of unlawful arrest since the act of arresting or detainment is duly authorized by law or with reasonable grounds.

3. Things to note

N/A

4. Distinguish from other offenses

This offense is distinguished from other offenses or crimes below.

a. Unlawful arrest vs Illegal detention

FactorsUnlawful arrestIllegal detention (Serious/slight)
Offended PartyAny personAny person
OffenderAny personPrivate individual
Overt ActsOffender arrests or detains another without any authorization or reasonable ground, to deliver the latter to the proper authorities.Kidnapping and serious illegal detention: Offender is a private individual who illegally kidnaps or detains another or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; and, in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (a) The kidnapping or detention lasts for more than three (3) days; or, b) It is committed by simulating public authority; or, (c) Serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made; or, d) The person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female, or a public officer. (If the victim of kidnapping and serious illegal detention is a minor, the duration of his detention is immaterial.)     Slight illegal detention: Offender is a private individual who illegally kidnaps or detains another, or in any other manner deprives the latter of their liberty, and it is done without the attendance of any of the circumstances enumerated in Art. 267 of the RPC.
Other CommentsN/AN/A

Duropan v. People, G.R. No. 230825, June 10, 2020, Per Leonen, J.:

• A public officer whose official duty does not involve the authority to arrest may be liable for illegal detention. Illegal detention, defined under Articles 267 and 268 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes “any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him [or her] of his [or her] liberty[.]”

• A public officer who has no duty to arrest or detain a person is deemed a private individual, in contemplation of Articles 267 and 268 of the Revised Penal Code. Even when a public officer has the legal duty to arrest or detain another, but he or she fails to show legal grounds for detention, “the public officer is deemed to have acted in a private capacity and is considered a ‘private individual.”

• In Osorio v. Navera, Staff Sergeant Osorio, a ranking officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, filed a Petition for Issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus before the Court of Appeals. He argued that he may not be charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, considering that the felony penalizes private individuals only. In rejecting this contention and affirming the Court of Appeals’ denial of his petition, this Court explained:

SSgt. Osorio was charged with kidnapping, a crime punishable under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code. Applying Republic Act No. 7055, Section 1, the case shall be tried by a civil court, specifically by the Regional Trial Court, which has jurisdiction over the crime of kidnapping. The processes which the trial court issued, therefore, were valid.

Contrary to SSgt. Osorio’s claim, the offense he committed was not service-connected. The case filed against him is none of those enumerated under Articles 54 to 70, Articles 72 to 92, and Articles 95 to 97 of the Articles of War.

Further, kidnapping is not part of the functions of a soldier. Even if a public officer has the legal duty to detain a person, the public officer must be able to show the existence of legal grounds for the detention. Without these legal grounds, the public officer is deemed to have acted in a private capacity and is considered a “private individual.” The public officer becomes liable for kidnapping and serious illegal detention punishable by reclusion perpetua, not with arbitrary detention punished with significantly lower penalties.

The cases cited by respondents are on point. In People v. Santiano, members of the Philippine National Police were convicted of kidnapping with murder. On appeal, they contended that they cannot be charged with kidnapping considering that they were public officers. This Court rejected the argument and said that “in abducting and taking away the victim, [the accused] did so neither in furtherance of official function nor in the pursuit of authority vested in them. It is not, in fine, in relation to their office, but in purely private capacity, that they [committed the crime].” This Court thus, affirmed the conviction of the accused in Santiano.

In People v. PO1 Trestiza, members of the Philippine National Police were initially charged with kidnapping for ransom. The public prosecutor, however, filed a motion to withdraw information before the trial court and filed a new one for robbery. According to the public prosecutor, the accused cannot be charged with kidnapping because the crime may only be committed by private individuals. Moreover, the accused argued that the detention was allegedly part of a “legitimate police operation.”

The trial court denied the motion to withdraw. It examined the Pre­ Operation/Coordination Sheet presented by the defense and found that it was neither authenticated nor its signatories presented in court. The defense failed to show proof of a “legitimate police operation” and, based on Santiano, the accused were deemed to have acted in a private capacity in detaining the victims. This Court affirmed the conviction of the police officers for kidnapping.

It is not impossible for a public officer to be charged with and be convicted of kidnapping as Santiano and Trestiza illustrated. SSgt. Osorio’s claim that he was charged with an “inexistent crime” because he is a public officer is, therefore, incorrect.

• Thus, public officers who have no duty to arrest or detain a person, or those who may have such authority but fail to justify the arrest or detention, may be indicted for kidnapping or serious illegal detention or slight illegal detention.

4A. In relation to other offenses

N/A

5. Complex crime

N/A

6. Procedural

The following are some procedural matters.

a. Prosecutorial discretion

Duropan v. People, G.R. No. 230825, June 10, 2020, Per Leonen, J.:

• [C]ourts convict or acquit based on what the information charges and the evidence presented during trial. This is called prosecutorial discretion in charging the offense. It is the prosecutor who decides what felony or offense to charge based on the evidence presented to its office.

• Here, it was entirely left for prosecutorial discretion to charge either illegal detention or unlawful arrest. For unlawful arrest, the added element to be proved is whether from the overt facts of the case, there was a clear intent to submit the persons arrested or detained for the purpose of prosecution. The prosecutor could have also charged illegal detention, which means that the intent to present for legal detention and prosecution need not be proven. However, in this case, the prosecutors decided to charge unlawful arrest only, with a significantly lower penalty.

References

Title IX – Crimes Against Personal Liberty and Security, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code, as amended

/Updated: August 21, 2023

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