Is mistake of fact a crime
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  • Is Mistake Of Fact A Crime: Aberratio Ictus, Praeter Intentionem, Error In Personae | Conspiracy And Proposal To Commit Crimes

Is a Mistake of Fact a crime, in Criminal Law? Under Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code [RPC] of the Philippines, it provides that criminal liability shall be incurred by any person committing a felony (delito) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

There are three situations contemplated. Here are they:

What is Aberratio Ictus and what are its implications?

This specific paragraph under the mentioned Article 4 of the RPC indicates three instances. One of these is aberratio ictus It is also known as “mistake in the blow”. This happens when an offender delivered a blow at an intended victim but landed instead on an unintended one because of lack of precision.

Supposing Teodoro, while attacking Manuel, finally had the chance to fire his gun at him. However, Teodoro missed and hit Chito instead.

In this case, Teodoro will be liable for the attempted felony done to Manuel as well as to the injury caused to Chito, although he had no intention to injure the latter.

The reason is that one cannot relieve himself from criminal liability for the argument that he did not intend to cause the natural consequence of his illegal act.

The felony committed against Manuel was intentional, and the damage done to Chito was its direct consequence. Hence, the felonious act resulted to a complex crime wherein the single act resulted to two or more grave or less grave felonies. The penalty for the more serious crime will be imposed in its maximum period.

Nonetheless, if Teodoro acted in self-defense against Manuel but hit Chito instead, Teodoro will not be liable since he was not committing a felony but a justifying circumstance under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code.

What is Praeter Intentionem and what are its implications?

Second instance is what we call praeter intentionem which means unintentional. It is committed when an injury resulting from an act is greater than the injury intended to be caused by the offender.

In other words, it is the lack of intention to commit crime than what is intended. The Injury is inflicted on the victim. However, the resulting injury or damage is so grave a wrong that it ended on producing something worse. It is one of the Mitigating Circumstances under Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code.

While the Offender shall have been liable for the felony actually committed or the resulting injury or damage, yet the penalty to be imposed shall be in its minimum period.

Intention may be ascertained by considering the following, to wit:

  • The weapon used
  • The injury afflicted
  • The manner it is afflicted
  • Part of the body injured

Supposing Alfred boxed Boying with the intention of inflicting only a lump on Boying, but, as the result of blow, Boying lost his balance and fell in the ground. His head hit hard the concrete pavement resulting to his death.

Alfred shall be liable for homicide. The law provides that he is liable even the felonious act is greater than that intended by him. The penalty imposed is Reclusion Temporal in its minimum period.

On the scenario that the victim does not die, the absence of intent to kill reduces felony to mere Physical Injuries and it is not considered as one of the mitigating circumstances.

However, there are circumstances that praeter intentionem is not applicable. These are:

Felonies by negligence.

  • In this, the offender acts without intent, it is replaced by negligence, imprudence, lack of foresight or skill.

Not applicable as defense in the crime of Hazing.

Not applicable in aberratio ictus and error in personae

  • There is an intention to commit felony upon the same person.

When there is a mistake in the identity of the intended victim? | Error in Personae

Lastly, another instance considered as a consequence embodied in Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code is error in personae or what they call mistake in identity. This exists when the offender actually hit someone believing that it is the intended victim but it turned out to be a different person.

Armando wanting to kill Bernie, killed Charo instead.

Armando is liable for homicide or murder, as the case maybe. For even if he did not intend to kill C, his overt act to kill makes him liable under Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code.

However, it must be stressed that there are only two persons involved herein – the actual but not intended victim and the offender.

What is meant by criminal conspiracy?

Conspiracy and proposal to commit felony are punishable only in the cases in which the law specially provides a penalty therefor.

  • A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.
  • There is proposal when the person who has decided to commit a felony proposes its execution to some other person or persons.

General Rule: Conspiracy and Proposal are not crimes; hence, they are not punishable. This is because they are just preparatory acts.

Exception: When the law specially provides a penalty thereof.

General Rule: Once conspiracy is proven, the act of one is the act of all unless one or some of the conspirators committed some other crime which is not part of the intended crime.

Exception: Even if there was a conspiracy, if a co-conspirator merely cooperated in the commission of the crime with minimal acts, such that the resulting crime is different from that which was originally intended. If the conspirators conspired to commit robbery only and one merely acted as a lookout outside. The other robbers committed rape inside the house, the lookout cannot be held liable for a Special Complex Crime of Robbery with Rape, but only Robbery.

Conversely, no matter how minimal the participation of a conspirator, if the whole act, collective or otherwise, constitutes a single indivisible offense, he may still be held liable for the crime that has resulted. For instance, three conspirators agreed to commit robbery. In the course thereof, the two malefactors raped the maid inside the house. The other one just merely looked at them without even preventing his co-accused from raping the maid. In this case, while the one did not have forced sexual intercourse with the girl, still, he is liable for Robbery with Rape.

The law specifically provides penalty for mere conspiracy.

Under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, there are the unlawful acts of conspiracy, and therefore, regarded as distinct crimes in themselves:

  1. Treason
  2. Rebellion
  3. Insurrection
  4. Coup de etat
  5. Sedition

Under Special Laws:

  1. Selected acts committed under the Dangerous drugs act
  2. Espionage
  3. Illegal Association
  4. Highway Robbery
  5. Arson
  6. Terrorism

Conspiracy to Commit Felony [Art. 8 of the RPC]

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come into an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.

A, B, and C gathered and decided to kill D. During the time of the commission of the crime, C did not arrive but D was successfully killed by his co-conspirators. Will C be liable?

Answer: No. The crime the three conspired to commit was murder, which, when there are no overt acts in furtherance of the criminal design is not punishable by law.

A and B agreed to rise publicly and take arms against the government together with their followers. But their plan did not materialize. Will the two be liable for conspiring?

Answer: Yes, because this is an exception to the rule as the crime conspired to be committed was rebellion which is punishable under Article 136 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

Proposal to Commit Felony [Art. 8 of the RPC]

There is proposal [to commit crime] when the person who has decided to commit a felony proposes its execution to some other person or persons.

X wanted to overthrow the government but was afraid to do it himself. He suggested it, but without viable sustainable strategies, to his hardliner and influential friends, who are also against the current government, and those desperate ones who really want change. However, his suggestions fell on deaf ears. Will X be liable for proposal to commit rebellion?

Answer: No. Although proposal to commit rebellion is punishable under Art. 136 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, X was not sure if he should commit the crime alone or with others. His plea was a mere suggestion and not a concrete proposal.


RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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  1. I need you help on this… Justin prevented Carlo from having a bloody encounter with his father. Kiana tried to remove the hands of Justin who was holding Carlo. Justin pulled the hands of Kiana causing her to fall over Piolo, her baby. Is Article 4 on aberratio ictus applicable in the case? Why?
    Reply me ASAP.

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