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Criminal Law Doctrines

What are the Characteristics of Criminal Law?

Generality means that the criminal law of the country governs all persons who lives or sojourns in the Philippines (Article 14, NCC), subject to certain exceptions brought about by international agreement. Ambassadors, chiefs of states and other diplomatic officials are immune from the application of penal laws when they are in the country where they are assigned (People vs. Galacgac, CA., 54 O.G. 1027). Acts performed should be in official capacity and performance of his duty (G.R. No. 125865. January 28, 2000).

Territoriality means that the penal laws of the country have force and effect only within the National Territory of the Philippines, subject to certain exceptions brought about by international agreements and practice. The territory of the country is not limited to the land where its sovereignty resides but includes also its atmosphere, its interior waters and maritime zone, including those outside of its jurisdiction as provided in Article 2, paragraphs 1-5 of RPC. 

Prospectivity means the law acts or omissions will only be subject to a penal law if they are committed after a penal law had already taken effect. Vice-versa, this act or omission which has been committed before the effectivity of a penal law could not be penalized by such penal law. Exception: (1) when new statute it is favorable to the accused and (2) the accused is not a habitual delinquent (Article 22 of RPC).

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Criminal Law Doctrines

Mala In Se vs. Mala Prohibita

Mala in se (“evil in itself”) – A crime or an act that is inherently immoral, such as murder, arson or rape. [Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Ed.] 

Mala prohibita (“prohibited evil”) – An act that is a crime merely because it is prohibited by statute, although the act itself is not necessarily immoral. [Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Ed.] 

Violations of the Revised Penal Code are referred to as malum in se, which literally means, that the act is inherently evil or bad or per se wrongful. On the other hand, violations of Special Laws are ‘generally’ referred to as malum prohibitum.

A common misconception is that all mala in se crimes are found in the Revised Penal Code (RPC), while all mala prohibita crimes are provided by special penal laws. In reality, however, there may be mala in se crimes under special laws, such as plunder under R.A. No. 7080, as amended. Similarly, there may be mala prohibita crimes defined in the RPC, such as technical malversation.

The better approach to distinguish between mala in se and mala prohibita crimes is the determination of the inherent immorality or vileness of the penalized act. If the punishable act or omission is immoral in itself, then it is a crime mala in se, -on the contrary, if it is not immoral in itself, but there is a statute prohibiting its commission b)”. reasons of public policy, then it is mala prohibita. 

In the final analysis, whether or not a crime involves moral turpitude is ultimately a question of fact and frequently depends on all the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statute.

Dungo vs. People, G.R. No. 209464, July 1, 2015

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Criminal Law Doctrines

Chain of Custody Rule – RA 9165 Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002

The following links must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation:

FIRST, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer;

SECOND, the turn over of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer (within 24 hours);

THIRD, the turn over by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and

FOURTH, the turn over and submission of the marked illegal drugs seized from the forensic chemist to the court.

People vs. Constantino, Jr. GR No. 199689, March 12, 2014

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Criminal Law Doctrines

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine

The fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine provides that evidence obtained and confiscated on the occasion of such unreasonable searches and seizures are deemed tainted and should be excluded for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree.

In other words, evidence obtained from unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding.

Comerciante vs. People, G.R. No. 205926

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Criminal Law Doctrines

When Warrantless Arrest is Lawful

A Warrantless Arrest, also known as “citizen’s arrest,” is lawful under three circumstances:

1) In Flagrante Delicto – When, in the presence of the policeman, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense.

2) Hot Pursuit – When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances, that the person to be arrested has committed it.

3) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a Penal Establishment.

Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court