One of the basic maxims in criminal law is the latin phrase,“Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege,” which translates to English as there is no crime when there is no law punishing the same. Undoubtedly, our criminal justice system follows this principle. It is, thus, important to know and determine the stages of the execution of crimes to bring about a proportionate penalty and equitable punishment to the accused.
And just like every undertaking, the execution of a crime, believe it or not, also has a process. Crimes do not just get accomplished just like that. It has stages. It undergoes various stages before its actual execution.
In this article, we will thoroughly discuss the stages of execution of a crime, but before we delve deeper into the discussion of its various stages, we shall first tackle its mental stage or internal acts and external acts.
The first stage, which is the mental stage, involves internal acts which are mere ideas in the mind of a person. These ideas, even if they may be contrary to law or morals or unconventional, shall not give rise to any criminal liability if the person will not act on them nor induce others to act on them. Such mental matters are outside the realm of penal laws and the person is not subjected to criminal prosecution.
The next stage in the commission of a crime involves external acts where the accused performs overt acts. These acts are characterized as preparatory acts and executory acts.
Preparatory acts are those which are performed by a person in preparation for the commission of the crime. These acts may or may not lead to the commission of a concrete crime. Some examples of these acts are the buying of a gun or poison or carrying of inflammable materials at the scene of the crime, among others. Ordinarily, they are not yet punishable since they do not yet constitute even the first stage in the execution of the crime.
Executory acts, on the other hand, are those acts that are already punishable under the Revised Penal Code (RPC). These are the attempted, frustrated, and consummated stages.
The legal basis for the stages of execution of a crime can be found in Article 61 of the RPC which provides the following:
Article 6. Consummated, frustrated, and attempted felonies. – Consummated felonies as well as those which are frustrated and attempted, are punishable.2
A felony is consummated when all the elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present; and it is frustrated when the offender performs all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.3
There is an attempt when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly or over acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than this own spontaneous desistance.4
What is an Attempted Felony?
A felony is attempted when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.
The elements of attempted felony are the following:
- the offender commences the commission of the felony directly by overt acts;
- he does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony;
- the non-performance of all acts of execution was due to cause or accident other than his spontaneous desistance
Attempted, in its literal sense, means to try to do something. Applying it in a legal sense, specifically in criminal law, it means that the commission of the felony has commenced. Yet, it did not produce the felony because of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.
The commission of a felony is deemed commenced when there are overt acts that are directly connected with the crime intended to be committed. “Overt acts” here can be defined as some acts that indicate the intention to perpetrate a particular crime.
It is more than mere planning or preparation, which if carried out to its complete termination following its natural course, will ripen into a concrete offense. The use of the word “directly” suggests that the offender must necessarily take direct part in the execution of the act to be guilty of attempted felony.
Thus, in the case of People vs. Lamahang,5 the Supreme Court ruled that the overt act of the offender of making an opening on the wall of the store is not an overt act directly connected to the crime of robbery, but merely an overt act directly connected to trespass to dwelling.
Accordingly, in order that the simple act of entering, by means of force or violence, another person’s dwelling may be considered as attempted robbery, it must be clearly shown that the offender intended to take possession of some personal property of another.
Another requisite for an attempted felony is that the offender was not able to perform all the acts of execution by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance. This means that the very reason that all the acts of execution were not performed was because of some other causes or some accident, such as when the victim was able to dodge a bullet aimed at him, or when the trigger of a gun jammed and no bullet came out.
Otherwise, if the reason for the non-performance of all the acts of execution was due to his own desistance, which was made before all the acts of execution, then there will be no liability for an attempted felony.
In the case of Baleros vs. People,6 the accused was charged with attempted rape for tightly pressing a piece of cloth soaked with chemicals on the victim’s face and at the same time pinning her down to bed and pressing his body against her.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that it is not attempted rape absent intent to have sexual intercourse with the victim. Furthermore, the pressing of a chemical-soaked cloth and lying on top of the victim do not constitute overt acts of rape. The Court ruled that they constitute unjust vexation punishable as light coercion under Article 287(2) of RPC.
What is Frustrated Felony?
Moreover, a felony is frustrated when the offender performs all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.
In the case of People vs. Bariago,7 the Supreme Court laid down the elements of a frustrated felony, to wit:
- the offender performs all the acts of execution
- all the acts of execution would produce the felony as a consequence
- felony is not produced
- by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.
Frustrated, in its literal sense, means to prevent from doing something. In criminal law, it means that the accused has passed the subjective phase, or that portion where the accused begins the commission of the crime to that point where he still has control over his acts and is now in the objective phase, or that portion where the accused has performed the last act necessary to produce the intended crime and where he has no more control over the results of his acts.
To be liable for the frustrated felony, it is necessary that the non-production or non-accomplishment of the felony is not due to the acts of the accused himself. Otherwise, the accused would be liable not for the frustrated stage of the intended crime but possibly for another crime.
An illustrative example is when the accused shot the victim mortally wounding him, but he saved the victim’s life afterward, thereby preventing the consummation of the felony. The reason is that the fourth element, that is, the felony was not produced by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator is lacking. In such a case, the accused will be liable not for frustrated homicide but for serious physical injuries absent the intent to kill the accused.
In the case of People vs. Angeles,8 appellants were charged with two (2) counts of frustrated murder. The appellants armed with knives, with conspiracy, with intent to kill, with treachery and taking advantage of their superior strength, feloniously attacked, stabbed, and hit Mark Ryan Evangelista, inflicting upon him “Grade II Liver injury R. lobe Hmoritorcum secondary to stab wound R lumbar posterior aspect.”
The accused performed all the acts of execution which would have produced the crime of Murder but which did not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the accused – due to timely medical assistance.
In this case, the victim’s injury was fatal and could have led to the victim’s death were it not for the medical attention given to him. Thus, the Supreme Court convicted the accused of Frustrated Murder as the attendant circumstances also clearly show that the accused really did intend to kill the victim.
Likewise, in People vs. Badriago,9 the Supreme Court found the accused-appellant Bonifacio Badriago guilty of frustrated homicide by ruling that he was able to perform all the acts that would necessarily result in the victim’s death.
The intent to kill can be presumed from the lethal hacking blows that the victim received. However, homicide was not produced and the victim survived in view of the timely medical intervention, a cause which is independent of the will of the accused-appellant.
Crimes that do not have Frustrated Stage
In the case of Valenzuela vs. People,10 Valenzuela and Calderon were charged with the crime of frustrated theft. They were seen hauling a pushcart with cases of tide detergent and unloading them in the same open parking space and loading them inside the taxi.
Before they can even flee though, they were apprehended at the scene and the stolen merchandise was recovered. The trial court both convicted them of consummated theft. However, the petitioners here contended that they should only be convicted of frustrated theft since they were not able to freely dispose of the stolen items because they were apprehended.
Yet, the Court held in this case that there is no crime of frustrated theft. The Court held that theft is produced when there is deprivation of personal property by one with intent to gain. Thus, it is immaterial that the offender is able or unable to freely dispose of the property stolen since he has already committed all the acts of execution and the deprivation of the owner has already been consummated from such acts. Hence, theft cannot have a frustrated stage. If at all, it can only be attempted or consummated.
In the case of rape, the Court further ruled in the case of People vs Pareja11 that it has no frustrated stage. As such, the accused was convicted of attempted rape only since the evidence showed the presence of the elements of this crime. Rape is deemed consummated by the slightest penile penetration of the labia majora or pudendum of the female organ.
It is not necessary that there is complete penetration nor hymenal laceration. In this case, however, there is no showing that there is penetration. In the absence of testimonial or physical evidence to establish penile penetration, the appellant cannot be convicted of consummated rape.
The Supreme Court ruled that when the “touching” of the vagina by the penis is coupled with the intent to penetrate, attempted rape is committed; otherwise, the crime committed is merely acts of lasciviousness.
In recent jurisprudence, the High Court in People vs. Agao,12 clarified the meaning of penetration, so as to distinguish whether rape is attempted or consummated. Thus:
Given the foregoing, for as long as the prosecutorial evidence is able to establish that the penis of the accused penetrated the vulval cleft or the cleft of the labia maiora (i.e., the cleft of the fleshy outer lip of the victim’s vagina), however slight the introduction may be, the commission of rape already crossed the threshold of the attempted stage and into its consummation. On the factual appreciation of whether this minimum threshold genital contact is obtained in an allegation of rape, the same is rightly left to the trial court’s astute assessment from the entirety of the body of proof presented in each case.13
For arson to be deemed consummated, it is not necessary that the entire premises were totally destroyed by fire. It suffices that a portion of the premises was burned to consummate the crime of arson.
What is Consummated Felony?
Finally, a felony is deemed consummated when all the elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present. Elements of a particular crime must be present to constitute a violation of the provisions of the law in its consummated stage.
For instance, in the crime of theft, the presence of intent to gain must be present for the accused to be liable for consummated theft. Absent the showing of intent to gain on the part of the accused, the crime of theft is not committed.
In the case of People vs. Bohol,14 the accused was charged with the crime of rape. In this case, it is undisputed that all the over acts constituting rape are present. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that the absence of injuries on private complainant’s body does not, therefore, negate the commission of rape nor does it signify lack of resistance by the private complainant.
This lack of signs of physical force in child sexual abuse cases is explained by the fact that, most often, the abusers do not intend to harm their victims physically. Rape is about the abuser exercising power and control over his victim. It is a conscious process of intimidation by which the abuser keeps his prey in a state of fear and humiliation. Thus, it is not impossible for the victim not to make an outcry against her assailant, even if the latter is unarmed.
In another case, People vs. Endaya,15 the accused Endaya was charged with the crime of parricide and murder committed against his wife and his mother-in-law. Endaya, armed with a bladed weapon and with intent to kill, treachery, and with evident premeditation, feloniously attacked his legitimate wife, inflicting upon her stab wounds which directly caused her instantaneous death.
In this case, given the information filed against him, it is undisputed that he was the author of the deaths of his wife and his mother-in-law. Therefore, the elements of the crime of parricide and homicide are all attendant in this case – thus, the crimes are consummated. The elements of self-defense were also failed to establish in this case, thus the Supreme Court found the accused guilty of parricide and murder.
Factors in Determining the Stage of the Execution of a Felony
To determine the stage of execution of the felony, three (3) factors must be determined, namely: the manner of committing the crime, the nature of the offense, and the elements of the crime.
Manner of committing a crime
The manner of committing a crime shall be taken into consideration in determining the stage of execution because there are crimes, which are called formal crimes, that only have a consummated stage and are deemed consummated in one instant, without any attempted or frustrated stage. Some examples of these crimes are threats, coercion, alarms and scandal, slander, false testimony, and acts of lasciviousness.
There are also crimes that are consummated by mere attempt or proposal or by overt acts such as flight to the enemy’s country and corruption of minors under Article 121 and 340 of RPC, respectively.
Moreover, when a felony is committed by omission, it does not have any attempted stage because the offender does not execute the act, but he merely omits the performance of an act that is incumbent upon him to do as required by law.
There are also material crimes which are crimes that admit any stages of execution, that is, attempted, frustrated, and/or consummated. Examples of these are homicide, rape, and murder considering that they are not consummated in one instant or by a single act. In rape, the gravamen is whether there is penetration or not, no matter how slight. Hence, rape is either attempted or consummated.
Elements of the crime
The elements of the crime shall also be considered in determining under which stage of execution the crime was committed. For example, in the crime of theft, the crime is considered consummated when the thief was able to take possession of the personal property of another with intent to gain. It is not necessary that the thief was actually able to carry the thing away. The mere taking of the property of another, without the latter’s consent would render the taker liable for the crime of consummated theft.
Likewise, for the crime of estafa to be consummated, there must be the presence of damage or prejudice to the offended party. For instance, although all the acts of execution have been performed, such as when the cashier put the proceeds inside her pocket but was later caught, causing her to return the same, there is an absence of the element of damage. Hence, in such a case, the saleslady may only be liable for frustrated estafa.
Further, in the crime of robbery with force upon things, it is necessary that the thing be brought out of the building to consummate the crime.
Nature of the crime itself
For the nature of the crime itself, we should consider the motive. So for the crimes of parricide, homicide, and murder, the following should be considered:
- With intent to kill, but no mortal wound is inflicted – it is attempted
- With intent to kill, and mortal wound is inflicted – frustrated
- With intent to kill and victim dies – consummated
For the crimes that require participation of two persons – they have no frustrated stage, examples are adultery, concubinage, and corruption of a public official.
We have now been able to extensively discuss the various stages of execution of a crime, which is one of the basic, if not the most important, concepts in criminal law. By knowing the various stages of execution, one would know the extent of the liability of the offender, as well as the penalty that must be imposed upon him or her for the crime he or she committed.
In attempted felony, what must be remembered is that the offender commences the commission of the crime but was unable to perform all the acts of execution due to some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.
There is frustrated felony, on the other hand, when the offender was actually able to perform all the acts of execution that would produce the felony but the same was not produced by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.
Finally, a felony is consummated when all the acts of execution were performed and the resulting injury was produced as a consequence and all elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present.
In determining the stages of execution what must be taken into account is the manner of committing the crime, the nature of the offense, and the elements of the crime. With this in mind, the stage of execution under which the crime was committed can be easily determined.
- Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Id., Article 6[↩]
- G.R. No. L-43530, August 3, 1935[↩]
- G.R. No. 138033, February 22, 2006[↩]
- G.R. No. 183566, May 8, 2009[↩]
- G.R. No. 254747, July 13, 2022[↩]
- G. R. No. 160188, June 21, 2007[↩]
- G.R. No. 188979, September 5, 2012[↩]
- G.R. No. 248049. October 4, 2022[↩]
- G.R. Nos. 141712-13, August 22, 2001[↩]
- G.R. No. 225745, February 28, 2018[↩]