We shall explain the legal implications of repeat offenders. It goes without saying that “Once is enough, twice is too much, and three times stupidity.”
This statement is often used in relationships to describe the idea that one mistake can be forgiven, two mistakes are difficult to overlook, and three mistakes show a pattern of behavior that is unlikely to change.
Yet, this statement could not be truer in law enforcement and in justice system. When individuals repeatedly commit crimes, it’s not just a minor slip-up. It is a pattern of behavior that can have serious legal consequences.
That’s where the concepts of reiteración and habitual delinquency come in. These legal terms refer to the repeated commission of crimes and the potential for increased penalties for repeat offenders.
In this article, we’ll delve into the legal implications of these concepts and explore why they matter in our criminal justice system. Therefore, let us start and uncover what it means to be a repeat offender.
Legal Implications of Repeat Offenders
Under Article 14, Paragraph 10 of the Revised Penal Code states that:
That the offender has been previously punished for 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.1
This is likewise considered as REITERACION or HABITUALITY.
Elements of REITERACION:
- That the accused is on trial for a current offense;
In the first element, the accused must be in trial for the offense he committed.
- That, at the time of the trial, he previously served sentence for another crime to which the law attaches an equal or greater penalty or for two or more crimes to which it attaches a lighter penalty;
Under the second element there are two situations. In both instances, however, the offender has already served out the sentence, and he has already been punished for a crime. If it is only one crime, it is necessary that the said crime must carry a penalty equal to or greater than the second crime. On the other hand, if there are two crimes for which he had been previously punished, it is necessary that they carry a lighter penalty than the new crime for which he is convicted.
- That he is also convicted of the new offense.
The third element the accused committed a new criminal offense.
For instance, X was sentenced to prison after being found guilty of the crime of homicide by final judgment. He served his sentence. After getting out of jail, he committed forcible abduction. Homicide is punished by reclusion temporal and forcible abduction is now being tried against him. The penalty for forcible abduction is also reclusion temporal. The Court found the accused guilty of forceful abduction. Is it possible for the Court to consider reiteracion as an aggravating factor when awarding the penalty for forceful abduction??
The answer is in the affirmative. It must be noted that the penalty for the crime of homicide where he has already served out his sentence is equal to the penalty for forcible abduction, both reclusion temporal. Reiteracion or habituality can be appreciated against the accused.
One jurisprudence on reiteracion is People vs. Molo,2 where the accused was charged of murder [qualified by] treachery, with abuse of superior strength, dwelling. It must be noted that, in the Information, the following were likewise alleged:
“(A) Dwelling, for the crime was committed in the house of the offended party who has not given any provocation at all.4
“(B) Recidivism in view of the fact that the accused has been charged for (1) Frustrated Murder before the Court of First instance of Mindoro in Criminal Case V-542 entitled People va. Dominador Molo and convicted thereof on September 2, 1950; and (2) Murder, before the Court of First Instance of Romblon in Criminal Case No. 862 entitled People vs. Dominador Molo and convicted thereof on July 27, 1961.5
“(C) Reiteration, since he has been charged and convicted before different courts in the following criminal cases:6
“(1) Grave Slander, before the Court of First Instance of Romblon in Criminal Case No. V-669 and convicted on June 5, 1957.7
“(2) Less Serious Physical Injuries, before the Municipal Court of Romblon, Romblon in Criminal Case No. 839 and convicted on October 9, 1959.8
“(3) Qualified Trespass to Dwelling, before the Municipal Court of Romblon, Romblon in Criminal Case No. 845 and convicted on February 25, 1960.9
“x x x x . . . .”
The Court convicted Molo as charged, appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery and the aggravating circumstances of dwelling, recidivism and reiteration, with the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender.
It was established in this case, that the accused was guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder qualified by treachery, and aggravated by circumstances of dwelling, recidivism and reiteration. It appeared that Molo has been convicted by final judgment of murder, frustrated murder, grave slander, less serious physical injuries, qualified trespass to dwelling a robbery, and, had served sentences for said crimes.11
In People vs. Masonson,12 the Solicitor-General argues that if the allegations of the information relative to the former convictions of the appellant are insufficient to warrant his being declared a habitual delinquent, they are sufficient, at least, to constitute the aggravating circumstance of recidivism of reiteracion.13
However, the Court disagree, in order that former convictions may constitute the circumstance of recidivism of reiteracion, they must arise from crimes prior to the one charged, and there is no such allegation in the information. Hence, it does not constitute as recidivism of reiteracion.14
Furthermore, pursuant to, Article 62(5), last paragraph of the Revised Penal Code refers to Habitual Delinquent:
…A person is deemed a habitual delinquent, if within a period of 10 years from the date of is release or last conviction of the crimes of serious physical injuries, less serious physical injuries, robbery, theft, estafa or falsification, he is found guilty of any of the said crimes a third time or oftener.15
Elements of HABITUAL DELINQUENCY:
- The crimes the offender committed should be serious physical injuries, less serious physical injuries, robbery, theft, estafa, or falsification;
- There should be at least three convictions;
- Each conviction must come within ten years from date of release or last conviction of the previous crime.
An individual is considered as a habitual delinquent if within a period of 10 years from the date of his last release or conviction of the crimes of serious or less physical injuries, robbery, theft, estafa, or falsification. Then, he is found guilty of any aforementioned crimes a third time or more.16
The effect of habitual delinquent an additional penalty shall be imposed in the maximum period being an aggravating circumstance. However, the penalty committed for the crime plus additional penalty should not exceed thirty years.
In the case of People vs. Bernal,17 wherein the accused was charged with the crime of theft, the information alleging that, aside from the presence of the aggravating circumstance of nocturnity, the accused is an habitual delinquent because he had been convicted, prior to the commission of the offense at bar, thrice of the same crime of theft.18
It was also discussed that Paragraph 5 of Article 62 of the Revised Penal Code, a person shall be deemed to be habitually delinquent, if within a period of ten years from the date of his release or last conviction of the crime of robbery, theft, estafa, or falsification, he is found guilty of any of said crimes a third time or oftener.19
One notable case is People vs. Melendrez,20 wherein the accused is a habitual delinquent, that he had been previously convicted by final judgment of competent courts twice of the crime of theft and once of the crime of estafa and having been last convicted of the crime of estafa.21
The Court held that aggravating circumstance of recidivism should be taken into account in imposing the principal penalty in its corresponding degree, notwithstanding the fact that the defendant is also sentenced to suffer an additional penalty as a habitual delinquent.
The case involves a robbery without the use of arms in an inhabited house, with the value of the articles taken being less than P250.00. The penalty prescribed for this crime is prision correccional in its medium degree, with one mitigating and one aggravating circumstance resulting in the imposition of the penalty in its medium degree.
In relation to the cases mentioned above, in People vs. Tolentino,22 states that;
A habitual delinquent is necessarily a recidivist, and in imposing the principal penalty upon him the aggravating circumstance of recidivism has to be taken into account. In fixing the penalty provided by law for the last crime” as required in paragraph 5 (a) (b), and (c) of article 62 of the Revised Penal Code, the court cannot disregard articles 14 (9) and Revised Penal Code, which respectively define recidivism as an aggravating circumstance and lay down the rule for the application of aggravating and mitigating circumstances.23
In short, a habitual delinquent is also a recidivist and in imposing the penalty, the aggravating circumstance of recidivism must be considered. The court cannot disregard the definition of recidivism as an aggravating circumstance and the rule for applying aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
To wrap it all off, reiteracion refers to the commission of a crime by the offender repeatedly, which shows a persistent inclination to violate the law. It is considered an aggravating circumstance under Article 14(10) of the Revised Penal Code, which states that the penalty for the crime may be increased if the offender has previously been convicted by final judgment of another crime embraced in the same title of the Code.
On the other hand, habitual delinquency refers to the commission of crimes by the offender because of a habitual tendency or disposition to violate the law. It is considered an aggravating circumstance, as well, under Article 62(5) of the Revised Penal Code, which states that the maximum penalty shall be imposed if the offender is a habitual delinquent.
With this in mind, it is important to be aware of these aggravating circumstances because they can significantly increase the penalty for a crime committed. The judges and prosecutors must carefully consider the evidence and determine whether the offender meets the criteria for reiteracion or habitual delinquency. Moreover, defense lawyers should, likewise, be cognizant of these aggravating circumstances to provide the best possible defense for their clients.
Going back to the saying, “Once is enough, twice is too much, and three times stupidity”, – if a person commits a crime once, it may be considered an isolated incident and may be attributed to different factors such as lack of knowledge or poor judgment. Nevertheless, if the same person commits the same or similar offense for the second time, it may already indicate a pattern of behavior that is unacceptable in society.
The second offense may already be considered a deliberate and intentional act, and the offender may be held accountable for it. Yet, if the same person commits the same or similar offense for the third time, it may already be considered as stupidity or a willful disregard for the law. This may indicate that the offender has not learned from previous convictions and is unlikely to reform. As a result, the court may impose harsher penalties to prevent further offenses and protect society.
Article 14(10) of the Revised Penal Code states that the penalty may be increased if the offender has been previously punished for 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. In other words, if the offender has a previous criminal record, their sentence may be harsher for their current offense.
This provision is important in the administration of justice as it aims to deter individuals from committing repeated criminal offenses. It also serves to protect society from habitual criminals by providing a stronger penalty for those who have already shown a disregard for the law.
In spite of that, it is also important to note that the application of this provision should be done judiciously and with respect to the principle of proportionality, to avoid imposing excessive or unjustified punishments on individuals who have already served their sentence for previous offenses.
- Article 14, Paragraph 10 of the Revised Penal Code
- G.R. No. L-44680, January 11, 1979
- G.R. No. 44527, March 31, 1936
- Article 62(5), Revised Penal Code
- People vs. Bernal, G.R. No. L-44988, October 31, 1936
- Article 62(5), Revised Penal Code
- G.R. No. L-39913, December 19, 1933
- G.R. No. L-48740, August 5, 1942