Usurpation of civil status refers to the act of a person taking on the civil status of another for purposes of defrauding other people, a.k.a. identity fraud.
Usurpation – refers to seizing, holding, or grabbing something unlawfully.
Civil status – refers to personal status or events of an individual or natural person, from birth to death, including citizenship, marriage, legal separation, annulment/nullity of marriage, adoption, etc.
Usurpation of civil status – refers to the act of a person taking on the civil status of another for purposes of defrauding other people, a.k.a. identity fraud.
a. Legal basis
Article 348. Usurpation of civil status. – The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall usurp the civil status of another, should he do so for the purpose of defrauding the offended part or his heirs; otherwise, the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods shall be imposed.
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2. Modes of commission
The following are the modes of committing the offense:
1) Usurpation of civil status
a. Mode 1: Usurpation
Elements of the offense:
1) The offender commits the act of usurpation; and
2) The usurpation is on the civil status of another. (REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 348)
1) Element 1: Usurpation
To usurp is to grab, hold, or seize something unlawfully. Meaning, the offenders did not have any right from the very beginning to support their having taking over something, as opposed to having an initial right but it expired or was rescinded, e.g., a lessee has initial rights to occupy the leased premises but such right may expire or be rescinded later on.
In this article, the usurpation relates to taking over another person’s civil status, which is also known in modern language as identity theft.
2) Element 2: Civil Status
Other than civil status, there are many things that may be the subject of usurpation such as: property, public office, and so on. Hence, it is important to note that this article contemplates and is limited to usurpation of civil status.
a) Civil status
Under the Civil Code, Article 407 and 408 requires that all acts, events, or judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons be recorded in the civil register, such as:
(4) Legal separations;
(5) Annulments of marriage;
(6) Judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning;
(9) Acknowledgments of natural children;
(11) Loss of citizenship;
(12) Recovery of citizenship;
(13) Civil interdiction;
(14) Judicial determination of filiation;
(15) Voluntary emancipation of a minor; and
(16) Changes of name.
Accordingly, any of the above civil status may have been usurped by the offender in the process of committing the offense.
b) Identity fraud
To usurp another person’s civil status presupposes that the other person’s identity will be taken over by the offender. For clarity, it is unlikely that the offenders would appropriate as their own the one specific civil status only of another individual, e.g. citizenship (what good is making one’s own the citizenship of another?). Thus, it would always inevitably include at least the name/s of the other person, plus the citizenship. In such a case, it is then identity fraud.
• Title XII – Crimes Against the Civil Status of Persons, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code
/Updated: May 20, 2023