Crimes, Police, and Penalties
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  • Multiple Crimes: Single Penalty Imposed

Multiple crimes do not mean the imposition of multiple penalties. The Latin legal maxims “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”, which means that the act itself does not make one criminally guilty unless his intention were so, and “actus me invito factus non est meus actus” which means that “an act done by me against my will is not my act”, as applicable principles in criminal law, imply that the criminal intent or voluntariness of the offender’s act is, or must be, taken into consideration to determine his criminal liability.

Criminal Intent is Material and Indispensable

Thus, the mere perpetration of an unlawful act or breach of law will not necessarily result in the commission of a crime in the absence of criminal intent. The presence of criminal intent, whether lone or several, and not the number of crimes committed will generally determine the number of penalties to be imposed upon the offender for the multiple felonies or offenses he committed. A single criminal intent must be punished by a single penalty as a retributive justice of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Single Criminal Resolution

The single penalty for one criminal resolution may also be loosely based on the doctrine of absorption, under which one crime may subsume another if the latter is inherent in, an element of, or a necessary consequence of, the commission of the former. The retribution for the multiple crimes results in one penalty, when committed by the same offender having single criminal purpose of intent.

What Constitute Complex Crime and Special Complex Crime?

The two criminal law principles are distinct from each other. Complex crime is different from Special Complex Crime. The first is governed by Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, while the latter is scattered within independent provisions of the same code or other special laws.

Complex Crime Under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code

Analysis of Crimes

Under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, in complex crime, although two or more grave or less grave felonies are actually committed, as a consequence of a single act, there is only one penalty to be meted upon the culprit. In the commission of a complex crime, the malefactor has only one evil or criminal intent in which the law perceives as one crime.

In the case where the perpetrator abducted a woman as a means for the commission of the crime of rape, according to law, he should be convicted of forcible abduction with rape. While two felonies are apparently present i. e. Forcible Abduction and Rape, they are treated as only one crime.

All the elements of forcible abduction under Article 342 of the Revised Penal Code exist, such as the taking of a woman against her will and with lewd designs. The culprit’s forcible abduction of a woman has been complexed with rape, now creating a fiction of a single felony. In this case, the crime of forcible abduction is a necessary means to commit the other. Therefore, it constitutes a complex crime.

However, when the crime of forcible abduction with rape was already consummated by one of the offenders and subsequent acts of intercourse in other places committed by the other offenders against the woman, the court held that the subsequent ones are separate acts of rape. The rationale for the court’s ruling is that in the first act of rape committed, the crime of forcible abduction was still necessary and was absorbed therewith so that the succeeding rapes committed cannot legally be considered connected with the abduction. (People vs. Bohos, G.R. No. L-40995 June 25, 1980)

Special Complex Crimes or Felonies

In comparison with complex crime, special complex crime also involves two or more component offenses punishable by single penalty. Some of the special complex crimes under the Revised Penal Code are robbery with homicide, robbery with rape, kidnapping with serious physical injuries, kidnapping with murder or homicide, and rape with homicide. Despite the technical designations of complex crime and special complex crime, only a single penalty will be meted.

In the instance where the commission of multiple crimes resulted to either complex crime or special complex crime for the accomplishment of the offender’s objective, the law takes into consideration the graver offense, thereby, imposing the maximum penalty thereof. Both the complex crime and special complex crime are under the doctrine of absorption. The only distinction between the two is that the former is covered under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code while the latter is not.

One of the aforementioned special complex crimes is kidnapping with homicide. When the offender killed his victim in the course of the latter’s detention, the kidnapping with homicide or murder can no longer be treated as complex crime under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, nor be treated as separate crimes. This is especially true whether the killing of the victim was the main objective of the offender or merely his afterthought.

It shall be punished as a special complex crime under the last paragraph of Article 267 of the same Code, as amended by Republic Act [R.A.] No. 7659. It now specifically defines the commission of such crime and provided the penalty therefor. Hence, article 267 provides that “when the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed.”

Effectively Separating Complex Crimes [Generic] and Special Complex Crimes

Before the date of effectivity of R.A. No. 7659 on December 31, 1993, the rule was that in the commission of the crime of kidnapping with homicide, the offender may be punished under Article 48 of the mentioned Code for complex crime or for two separate crimes of kidnapping, and murder depending upon the main purpose of the offender.

However, because of the amendment of Article 267 as well as the other articles of the Revised Penal Code for specific crimes, consequential death on the occasion of kidnapping is, by legal fiction, complexed with the latter crime. Likewise, other special complex crimes surface.


RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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