How Long Does It Take For a Prosecutor to File Charges?
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Introduction

When a crime or a felony is committed, it is the right of the offended party to seek remedy for the redress of his rights violated or injured. There are steps taken before a prosecutor to finally charge the accused in court. As provided by the Rules of Court, the offended party can file a complaint with a peace officer or any public officers charged with the enforcement of such laws violated.

Such complaint can then be filed before the office of the prosecutor. The prosecutor then shall conduct a preliminary investigation if needed as provided by the rules and by special laws governing such subject of the offense. The purpose of which is to determine if there is probable cause to hold the respondent for trial.

Also, the purpose of this procedure is to afford due process not only to the complainant but also to the respondent as well to refute the accusation against him even at this earliest stage. After such investigation, the prosecutor will issue a resolution either finding probable cause to hold the respondent for trial or to reject the complaint.

This shall be forwarded to the office of the superior prosecutor for approval for the filing of information now charging the accused of such crimes in the proper court.

It is important to note that the complaint and the information filed should be in writing and sworn or subscribed under oath. It should also be sufficient in form and must contain the following requisites:

  1. name of the accused;
  2. the designation of the offense given by the statute;
  3. the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense;
  4. the name of the offended party;
  5. the approximate date of the commission of the offense;
  6. and the place where the offense was committed
  7. when an offense is committed by more than one person, all of them shall be included in the complaint or information.

When must the prosecutor file charges?

After conducting the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor upon finding a probable cause to hold the respondent for trial will issue a resolution.

This shall be forwarded to the provincial or city prosecutor or chief state prosecutor, or to the Ombudsman or his deputy as required by the Rules of Court.

If approved, the prosecutor shall file an information in proper court stating that there is reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. However, the respondent can appeal the resolution for review before the Department of Justice.

The Secretary of Justice has the authority to review the opposing theories of the complainant and the respondent with finality, subject, of course, still to a judicial review, following the hierarchy of courts and exhaustion of administrative remedies, as the case may be.

The prosecutor, upon the permission or leave of the court, may amend the information it earlier filed, subject to the outcome and finality of the reviewed resolution.

This is without prejudice further to the application of the principle of double jeopardy in case the accused has already been arraigned.

How long should a preliminary investigation last?

As provided by the Rules of Court, within ten days after the filing of the complaint, the prosecutor upon finding the complaint with the accompanying affidavits and accompanying documents to have sufficient grounds to continue the investigation will issue a subpoena to the respondent attached therewith a copy of the complaint with the sworn affidavits and other documents.

The respondent has the right to examine the affidavits of the complaint. Within ten days after the receipt of the subpoena, the respondent shall submit his counter- affidavits and that of his witnesses.

The counter- affidavits shall be sworn to, subscribed and certified. Within ten days after the submission of the counter-affidavits, hearing may be conducted upon the discretion of the prosecutor to clarify facts and issues from a party or a witness but a cross- examination from both parties shall not be allowed.

The hearing shall be terminated in five days. After the case has been submitted for resolution upon the filing of last affidavit as required from the parties, the prosecutor will resolve whether or not there are sufficient grounds [probable cause] to hold the respondent for trial.

What are the stages of prosecution?

There are various stages in the prosecution process. The first stage of the prosecution is the police investigation. The prosecution begins when a law enforcement officer, a complainant, or a public officer [in charge with the enforcement of the law] files a case against a suspected criminal.

The second stage is the preliminary investigation. It is the proceeding in which a public prosecutor evaluates the findings of the police and/or the evidence submitted by the complainant or the law enforcement officer for purposes of determining probable cause to hold the respondent for trial.

Aside from the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor may also conduct an inquest investigation, which is an informal and summary investigation conducted by the prosecutor in criminal cases involving persons arrested or detained without valid warrant of arrest.

If the prosecution finds a probable cause, the prosecutor may prepare the resolution and file the necessary information in court against the respondent, which may be considered as the next stage.

Nonetheless, the respondent may file an appeal to the Secretary of Justice within fifteen days from the receipt of the adverse resolution from the prosecutor.

When the case is already before the jurisdiction of a competent court, trial may proceed to its conclusion, thus, ultimately finding out whether the accused is guilty of the crime charged or should acquitted based on reasonable doubt or innocence, as the case may be.

Can prosecutors decide not to file charges? If yes, what may be the reason?

The prosecution has the discretion whether to file charges or not. When someone is arrested, the prosecution must properly review the facts and the evidence of the case. The prosecution can only file the criminal charges that can be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The rights of the innocent must be protected. If the prosecutor does not believe that there is enough evidence and there is no probable cause to justify a criminal arrest; if there is not enough evidence to proceed with the trial, they may not file criminal charges.

The prosecution must have enough evidence to establish each of every element of the crime committed that can be proved at the trial beyond reasonable doubt that there is a “probable cause” and that there are grounds for a well-founded belief that the crime has been committed. The prosecutor must decide whether there is enough evidence in the case to warrant a successful prosecution.

How long can person be under investigation?

Period to Conduct the Preliminary Investigation.[1]2017 Revised Manual For Prosecutors, Chapter IV, Preliminary Investigation, Section 4.7.12 -The preliminary investigation of complaints shall be terminated and resolved within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of assignment to the investigating prosecutor, with a maximum of two (2) 15-day extensions in the following cases:

  1. Capital offenses
  2. Complex issues
  3. With counter-charges
  4. Consolidation of related complaints
  5. Reassignment
  6. Other urgent/valid reasons

Pursuant to Section 90 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2004,” the preliminary investigation of illegal drugs cases shall be terminated within thirty (30) days from the date of filing.[2]Ibid.

However, for reasons beyond the control of the prosecution or for causes without his fault, the investigation may may extend beyond the limit provided, as long as there will be proper records and explanation to effect the same.

The only thing that a person under investigation can do is to wait for the progress of their case. If there is not enough evidence to charge a person or to determine probable cause, then, the case will eventually be dismissed.

How do you tell if a prosecutor’s case is weak?

Prosecutors are usually considered as gate keepers of criminal justice, hence, are essential agents of the administration of justice. This is so because it is their duty to take a case to trial and establish the guilt of the accused. After being successfully establishing, the accused will later on suffer the penalty of his wrongdoings.

Unfortunately, some cases are not brought to trial in view of the fact that the evidence to support the complaint are not sufficient or strong, for purposes of even establishing probable cause.

Behind these weaknesses are reasons and causes that may allow the case to eventually fail. One of which is the lack or absence of sufficient proofs, whether, object, documentary, or eyewitnesses.

When a defendant is arrested and criminal charges are filed against him, the prosecution must provide and present  sufficient evidence that would establish the probable cause, albeit initially, and the subsequent quantum of proofs necessary for making the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Likewise, a case may be considered weak if the witnesses become unavailable. Witnesses are persons who will appear in court to testify, based on their personal knowledge, that they actually witnessed the commission of the crime.

Through them, the important information surrounding the situation will be much easier to establish, especially as to the participation of the accused and the manner the crime was perpetrated.

As a matter of fact, the testimonies of witnesses serve a big role in the ligation since they corroborate with the evidence presented in court.

Distinguish regular filing from inquest proceedings, Explain

As a rule, the institution of a criminal action generally depends upon whether the offense is one which requires a preliminary investigation or not.

A preliminary investigation is necessary if the offenses involved are those where the penalty prescribed by law is at least four years, two months and one day. In such case, the complaint is instituted by filing the complaint with the following:

  1. Provincial or City Prosecutors and their assistants;
  2. Judges of the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;
  3. National and Regional State Prosecutors; and
  4. Other officers as may be authorized by

For all other offenses, an action is instituted by filing the complaint or information directly with the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, or the complaint with the office of the prosecutor. In Manila and other chartered cities, the complaint shall be filed with the office of the prosecutor unless otherwise provided in their charters.[3]Prosecution of Offenses, Section 1, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure

On the other hand, inquest proceedings shall be considered commenced[4]Section 3.2.1, Chapter III, of 2017 Revised Manual for Prosecutors upon receipt by the Inquest Officer from the law enforcement authorities of the complaint/referral documents which should include:

  1. the affidavit of arrest;
  2. the investigation report;
  3. the statement of the complainant and witnesses; and
  4. other supporting evidence gathered by the police in the course of the latter’s investigation of the criminal incident involving the arrested or detained person.[5]Ibid.

Not just like in regular filing that it is the offended party that will commence the action, in inquest proceedings, it is the law enforcement authorities that will commence the action by referring or submitting documents to the Inquest Officer.

What will the prosecutor do if the complainant, after filing his affidavit complaint, never attended the scheduled hearing, despite notice?

If the offended party files with the appropriate office a complaint, a criminal action is deemed instituted. After filing such, the accused may answer the charges against him and may file its counter-affidavit, which the offended party may answer again.

After the period designated by law as to the filing of complaints and counter-affidavits, a preliminary investigation is conducted.

According to the Rules of Criminal Procedure,[6]Rule 112, Section 1, Preliminary Investigation a preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial.

If the investigating prosecutor finds probable cause to hold respondent for trial, he shall prepare the resolution and information and shall certify under oath in the information.

If the complainant never attended any of the scheduled hearings, the prosecutor shall not immediately dismiss the case, rather, the prosecutor may have to resolve the case based on the existence of probable for the complaint filed and based on the pieces of evidence presented to the prosecutor during the preliminary investigation.

What are the documents that should be submitted during an inquest proceeding?

As mentioned earlier, the Revised Manual For Prosecutors requires that the inquest proceeding shall be considered commenced only upon the receipt by the Inquest Officer of the complaint or referral documents,[7]Supra., Section 3.2.1, Commencement which should include:

  1. the affidavit of arrest;
  2. the investigation report;
  3. the statement of the complainant and witnesses; and
  4. other supporting evidence gathered by the police in the course of the latter’s investigation of the criminal incident involving the arrested or detained

On the other hand, the same rules provides for specific documents for certain specific cases, which are:

For Murder, Homicide and Parricide

  1. certified true/machine copy of the certificate of death of the victim; and
  2. necropsy report and the certificate of post-mortem examination, if readily available.

For Frustrated or Attempted Homicide, Murder, Parricide and Physical Injuries

  1. medical certificate of the complaining witness showing the nature or extent of the injury;
  2. certification or statement as to duration of the treatment or medical attendance; and
  3. certificate or statement as to duration of incapacity for work.

For Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Law (R.A. No. 9165, as amended)

1] chemistry report or certificate of laboratory examination duly signed by the forensic chemist or other duly authorized officer.

If the foregoing documents are not available, the Inquest Officer may temporarily rely on the field test results on the seized drug, as attested to by a PNP Narcotics Command operative or other competent person.

In which event, the Inquest Officer shall direct the arresting officer to immediately forward the seized drug to the crime laboratory for expert testing and to submit to the prosecutor’s office the final forensic chemistry report within five (5) days from the date of the inquest;

2] machine copy or photograph of the buy-bust money; and

3] affidavit of the poseur-buyer, if any.

4] chain of custody report

5] inventory report

6] proof of compliance with Section 21 of RA No. 9165

For Theft and Robbery, Violation of the Anti-Piracy and Anti-Highway Robbery Law (P.D. No.532) and Violation of the Anti-Fencing Law (P.D. No.1612)

  1. a list/inventory of the articles and items subject of the offense; and b) statement of their respective values.

For Rape, Seduction and Forcible Abduction with Rape

  1. the medico-legal report (living case report), if the victim submitted herself for medical or physical examination.

For Violation of the Anti-Carnapping Law

  1. machine copy of the certificate of motor vehicle registration;
  2. machine copy of the current official receipt of payment of the registration fees of the subject motor vehicle; and
  3. other evidence of

For Violation of the Anti-Cattle Rustling Law (P.D. No.533)

  1. machine copy of the cattle certificate of registration; and
  2. photograph of the cattle, if readily available.

For Violation of Illegal Gambling Law (P.D. No.1602)

  1. gambling paraphernalia; and
  2. cash money, if any

For Illegal Possession of Explosives 

  1. chemistry report duly signed by the forensic chemist; and
  2. photograph of the explosives, if readily available.

For Violation of the Fisheries Law (P.D. No.704)

  1. photograph of the confiscated fish, if readily available; and
  2. certification of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Violation of the Forestry Law (P.D. No.705)

  1. scale sheets containing the volume and species of the forest products confiscated, number of pieces and other important details such as estimated value of the products confiscated;
  2. certification of Department of Environment and Natural Resources/Bureau of Forest Management; and
  3. seizure receipt.

The submission of the foregoing documents shall not be absolutely required if there are other forms of evidence submitted which will sufficiently establish the facts sought to be proved by the foregoing documents.

What is determined during inquest proceedings for the inquest prosecutor to criminally indict the apprehended suspect?

In Leviste vs. Alameda,[8]G.R. 182677, 3 August 2010the Supreme Court declared that:

“The inquest serves to determine whether said persons should remain under custody and correspondingly be charged in court.”[9]Ibid.

Under the 2017 Revised Manual For Prosecutors,[10]Sec. 3.2.5, Chapter III, Inquest Proceedings it was provided that:

“The Inquest Officer shall first determine if the arrest of the detained person was made in accordance with any of the following:[11]Ibid.

“a. When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;[12]Ibid.

“b. When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it;[13]Ibid. and

“c. When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.[14]Ibid.

“For this purpose, the inquest prosecutor may summarily examine the arresting officers on the circumstances surrounding the arrest or apprehension of the detained person.”[15]Ibid.

Moreover, where the arrest is properly affected, the same Rules provides that determining the existence of probable cause is necessary.

Can the suspect request for preliminary investigation during    inquest proceedings?

Yes, the suspect may request for preliminary investigation during inquest proceeding provided that he/she observes the requirement under  Revised Manual for Prosecutors of 2017,[16]Section 3.2.6, Chapter III, Inquest Proceedings as mentioned above, which states:

“Should the inquest prosecutor find that the arrest was properly effected, the detained person shall be asked if he/she desires to avail himself/herself of a preliminary investigation and, if he/she does, the consequences thereof must be explained to him/her adequately.[17]Ibid.

“The detained person must be assisted by a lawyer of his/her own choice. If he/ she has none, the inquest prosecutor shall provide him/her the services of a public attorney.[18]Ibid.

“The detained person, assisted by his/her lawyer, shall then be made to execute a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.[19]Ibid.

“The preliminary investigation may be conducted by the inquest prosecutor himself/herself or by any other prosecutor to whom the case may be assigned by the Prosecutor General or the Provincial/ City Prosecutor, which investigation shall be terminated within fifteen (15) days from its commencement.”[20]Ibid.

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