The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines is the primary law that outlines the criminal offenses in the country and their corresponding penalties. Under the Code, there are three categories of offenses: Grave Felonies, Less Grave Felonies and Light Felonies. Article 7 of the Code focuses on light felonies and provides guidelines on when they are punishable.
Article 7 states the general principles of criminal law that are applied to all crimes, including light felonies. A light felony is a criminal offense that is less serious than a regular felony or a major crime.
Article 7 of the Revised Code states:
When Light Felonies are Punishable. — Light felonies are punishable only when they have been consummated, with the exception of those committed against person or property.1
There are three categories of felonies: grave, less grave, and light. Light felonies, which are the least serious of the three, are generally punishable only when they have been fully carried out or “consummated.” However, there is an exception to this rule when it comes to light felonies committed against a person or property. In these cases, the offender can be punished even if the crime was not fully completed.
What are light felonies?
As mentioned, Article 7 of this code provides the general rule for the classification of felonies or criminal offenses based on their gravity.
A light felony, as defined by the Code, is an offense that is lower in gravity compared to other felonies. It is a violation of the law that is punishable by a penalty lower than that of less grave offense. A light felony is a crime that carries a penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding to 200 pesos [before the advent of RA No. 10951], or both.2
Now, light felonies are those infractions of law which the latter punishes with a penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding forty thousand (P40,000.00) or both.3
When Light Felonies are Punishable
Article 7 of the Revised Penal Code outlines the circumstances under which a light felony may be penalized. As earlier mentioned, it states that a light felony is punishable only when it is consummated, that is, when the act is completed. Attempted or frustrated light felonies are not punishable under the Code except in crimes against person or property.
The crime of unjust vexation is a light felony, punishable by arresto menor or a fine ranging from fine from P1,000 to not more than P40,000.00.4 In this case, the accused may be found guilty of unjust vexation for annoying other people.
Slight physical injuries are considered as a light felony. Thus:
“ART. 266. Slight physical injuries and maltreatment. – The crime of slight physical injuries shall be punished:5
“1. By arresto menor when the offender has inflicted physical injuries which shall incapacitate the offended party for labor from one (1) to nine (9) days, or shall require medical attendance during the same period.6
“2. By arresto menor or a fine not exceeding Forty thousand pesos (P40,000) and censure when the offender has caused physical injuries which do not prevent the offended party from engaging in his habitual work nor require medical assistance.7
“3. By arresto menor in its minimum period or a fine not exceeding Five thousand pesos (P5,000) when the offender shall ill-treat another by deed without causing any injury.”8
The crime of oral defamation is a light felony, punishable by arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P20,000.00.9 In this situation, the accused, if found guilty of oral defamation for uttering slanderous words, may be held criminally liable.
The crime of malicious mischief, which involves damaging or destroying property, is a light felony. The penalty for malicious mischief which is considered as light felony, is as follows, to wit:
“3) By arresto menor or a fine of not less than the value of the damage caused and not more than Forty thousand pesos (P40,000), if the amount involved does not exceed Forty thousand pesos (P40,000) or cannot be estimated.”10
In the above instances, it is worthy to note they are all consummated. Nonetheless, it bears stressing that slight physical injuries ang malicious mischief are crimes against persons and property.
We take this opportunity, as well to illustrate the instance where a light felony may be committed in its attempted stage.
Supposing X tried to pick the wallet from the pocket of Y. While getting it out from Y’s pocket, the latter immediately felt and noticed the hand of X. At his juncture, the wallet being held by X’s fingers was still in Y’s pocket. The latter managed to hold the hand of X preventing him from successfully pulling out Y’s wallet from his pants. Y’s wallet has P400.00.
In this case, X is guilty of Attempted Theft. Theft is a crime against property, which is an exception to Article 7 of the Revised Penal Code. Moreover, under Section 81 of RA No. 10951, 11 it provides that:
“7. Arresto menor or a fine not exceeding Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000), if the theft is committed under the circumstances enumerated in paragraph 3 of the next preceding article and the value of the thing stolen does not exceed Five hundred pesos (P500). If such value exceeds said amount, the provisions of any of the five preceding- subdivisions shall be made applicable.12
“8. Arresto menor in its minimum period or a fine of not exceeding Five thousand pesos (P5,000), when the value of the thing stolen is not over Five hundred pesos (P500), and the offender shall have acted under the impulse of hunger, poverty, or the difficulty of earning a livelihood for the support of himself or his family.”13
X failed to successfully take Y’s wallet as the former’s hand was caught in flagrante before he could have successfully taken out the property of Y without the latter’s consent.
To recap, Article 7 of the Revised Penal Code explains the guidelines for when a light felony is punishable under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. It defines what a light felony is and its corresponding penalty, which is lower than that of arresto mayor.
Light felonies cause so minor moral and material harm that the public conscience is satisfied with a light penalty for their commission. If they are not consummated, the harm done is so trivial that there is no need for a penalty.14
On the other hand, the commission of offenses against persons or property presumes moral depravity in the perpetrator. As a result, even attempted or frustrated light felonies against individuals or property are penalized.15
A light felony is an offense that is lower in gravity than a felony and carries a penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P40,000.00, or both.
It is punishable only when it is consummated, and attempted or frustrated light felonies are not punishable, except for crimes against persons and property. The circumstances under which a person who commits a light felony is not criminally liable are also outlined in the Code.
While light felonies are beneath less grave offenses, they are nevertheless penalized by law. Individuals who commit minor misdemeanors may nonetheless face legal consequences as a result of their acts.
It is also worth noting that the punishment for a minor crime may vary based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. For example, if the perpetrator behaved without criminal intent or is a minor, he or she may not even be criminally liable or the sentence may be reduced.
- Article 7 of the Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Article 9 par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA No. 10951[↩]
- Section 73, RA No. 10951[↩]
- Section 61, RA No. 10951[↩]
- Section 94, RA No. 10951[↩]
- Section 88 of RA No. 10951[↩]
- Article 309 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended[↩]
- Reyes, Revised Penal Code, Book 1, 2012 ed., p. 126[↩]