The effect that the physical defects of a criminal have on his or her unlawful behavior can mitigate his punishment by a number of different factors. These may include the kind and severity of the defects or disabilities, the criminal’s prior criminal history, and the circumstances of the crime. There are situations in which a person’s physical flaws or deformities can even be considered a mitigating factor in their sentence.
For instance, if a person with a physical disability commits a crime, the court may take into consideration the fact that the person’s condition may have made it more difficult for them to avoid committing the crime or may be his lack of absolute intention to commit the same.
On a psychological perspective, if a person with a physical impairment is found guilty of a crime, the court, without retroacting to the fact of the commission of the crime itself, may take into account that the convict will be having trouble serving a jail sentence as a result of his or her disability.
Physical Defects of a Criminal
When assessing whether or not a punishment will be reduced, it is possible that the category of physical defect may be taken into consideration. Nonetheless, in order to be appreciated as mitigating the offender’s criminal liability, such defect should have a direct connection with the crime committed.
In Philippine jurisdiction, the criminal liability of individuals may be reduced depending on the circumstances that surround the commission of the crime. These circumstances are called mitigating circumstances which demonstrates lesser perversity or criminality on the part of the offender. The penalty imposed on the offender is reduced by reason of the lack of the element of voluntariness in the commission of the crime.
The Law | Article 13 Paragraph 8, Revised Penal Code
One circumstance that may be invoked is physical defect. Persons with physical defects are afforded this defense as provided in Article 13, paragraph 8 of the Revised Penal Code, thus:
Article 13. Mitigating circumstances. – The following are mitigating circumstances;
8. That the offender is deaf and dumb, blind or otherwise suffering some physical defect which thus restricts his means of action, defense, or communications with his fellow beings.1
The requisites for a person to avail of this mitigating circumstance are as follows:
- That the offender is deaf and dumb, blind, or otherwise suffering from some physical defects; and
- Such physical defect restricts his means of actions, defense, or communication with their fellow beings
For this mitigating circumstance to apply, the offender must either be deaf and dumb, blind, or suffering other physical defects that prevents him or her from employing actions, defense, or communications that are necessary for his or her dealings with other people.
The physical defects contemplated in this article includes, but is not limited to, being, armless, cripple, stutterer, such that the individual does not have a freedom of action, and, as such, there is a diminution of the element of voluntariness, a necessary element to determine whether or not a felony was committed.2
Likewise, the law made no distinctions between educated and uneducated deaf-mute, blind persons, or other persons with physical defects. Both are entitled to this mitigating circumstance so long as such physical defect restricted his means of actions, defense, or communication with others.
It must be noted, however, that not every individual who suffer from physical defects can avail of this defense. It is imperative that the physical defect has a direct connection with the crime committed.
As such, the act of a cripple, who has no legs and who only uses a skateboard for his mobility, in snatching the handbag of a passerby is not akin to a mitigating circumstance. He cannot be entitled to the said circumstance by reason that there is simply no connection between his being a cripple and the snatching incident.
On the other hand, a blind beggar, who was suddenly hit on the head with a wood which caused him to fall in the ground, is entitled to a mitigating circumstance when thereafter, he mistakenly hit another person with his cane upon in return. In this case, there is a relation between the physical defect and the crime committed. His being blind restricted his mean of action, defense, or communication. Hence, the physical defect shall mitigate the criminal liability.
In the case of People vs Nazario [97 Phil 990],3 Anacleto Nazario was found guilty of robbery committed in an inhabited house. With this, the Supreme Court imposed a penalty of imprisonment for six (6) months and one (1) day, prision correccional, to six (6) years and one (1) day, prision mayor.
However, the Court said that Nazario is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of being deaf and dumb as provided under Article 13, parapraph 8 of the Revised Penal Code. The penalty next lower to the one prescribed by law was imposed.
Overall, the law has provided persons with physical defects the defense to lower their respective criminal liability. However, it must be noted that physical defect is not always mitigating for all individuals who suffer from physical defects. It may only be availed of, if and only if, the physical defect has a relation to the crime committed of the offender.
Otherwise, the offender shall suffer the penalty of the actual crime committed without the benefit of the mitigating circumstances. After all, every individual is subject to the application and operation of the law. No one is above it. Persons with physical defects cannot just use this to evade criminal liability.
The impact of physical defects on a criminal’s ability to commit crime has been codified in law. However, some argue that physical defects make it easier for criminals to commit crimes, whereas others argue that they make it more difficult for criminals to commit crimes. There is no universal agreement on this point, but there is evidence that physical defects can reduce a criminal’s ability to commit crime.
According to research, criminals with physical flaws are less likely to evade detection and capture. Criminals with physical flaws are also less likely to succeed in committing crimes like robbery or assault. Physical defects, according to these findings, can have a significant impact on a criminal’s ability to commit crime.
- Article 13 Paragraph 8, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Justice J.B.L Reyes, Revised Penal Code Book On, 2021[↩]
- G.R. No. L-7628, September 29, 1955[↩]