Criminal negligence

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Criminal cases filed usually in vehicular accidents are based in Article 265[1] of the Revised Penal Code. A criminal negligent act is not a simple modality of a willful crime, but a distinct crime in itself, designated as a quasi-offense under the Revised Penal Code.[2] In intentional crimes, the act itself is punished; in negligence or imprudence, what is principally penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia punible. Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, states that reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing such act. Compared to intentional felonies, such as homicide or murder, what takes the place of the element of malice or intention to commit a wrong or evil is the failure of the offender to take precautions due to lack of skill taking into account his employment, or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition, and other circumstances regarding persons, time, and place.[3]


Contents

Concept of imprudence

Simple imprudence consists in the lack of precaution displayed in those cases in which the damage impending to be caused is not immediate nor the danger clearly manifest.[4]

Reckless imprudence consists in voluntary, but without malice, doing or falling to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing of failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.[5]

The accused showed an inexcusable lack of precaution when he disregarded a traffic sign cautioning motorists to slow down and drove his vehicle in full speed despite being aware that he was traversing a school zone and pedestrians were crossing the street. He should have observed due diligence of a reasonably prudent man by slackening his speed and proceeding cautiously while passing the area.[6]


Imprudence resulting to damage to property

When the execution of the act covered by this article shall have only resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damages to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less than twenty-five pesos.[7]


Simple negligence, which if maliciously done, would constitute a light felony

A fine not exceeding two hundred pesos and censure shall be imposed upon any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall cause some wrong which, if done maliciously, would have constituted a light felony.[8]


Simple negligence, which if intentional, would constitute a grave felony or less grave felony

Any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall commit an act which would otherwise constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods; if it would have constituted a less serious felony, the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period shall be imposed.[9]


Reckless imprudence, which if done intentionally, would have constituted a light felony

Article 365, before its amendment, penalizes the following acts: (1) an act by reckless negligence, which if intentional, would constitute a grave felony or a less grave felony; (2) an act by simple negligence, which if intentional, would constitute a grave felony or less grave felony; (3) a negligent act resulting in damages to another; and (4) an act by simple negligence, which if maliciously done, would constitute a light felony. Before its amendment, Article 365 does not include an act of reckless imprudence, which if done intentionally, would have constituted a light felony, like slight physical injuries. After noticing that the Revised Penal Code did not punish slight physical injuries thru reckless imprudence, Congress passed Republic Act No. 1790, promulgated on 21 June 1957, which filled the hiatus found in article 365, by providing the penalty of arresto menor in its maximum in its maximum period, for light felony committed thru reckless imprudence or negligence.[10]


Reckless negligence, which if intentional, would constitute a grave felony or a less grave felony

Any person who, by reckless imprudence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period; if it would have constituted a less grave felony, the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods shall be imposed; if it would have constituted a light felony, the penalty of arresto menor in its maximum period shall be imposed.[11]

The first paragraph of Article 365, pursuant to which "any person who, by reckless imprudence shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, . . . would have constituted a less grave felony," shall suffer the penalty of "arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods," merely establishes a general rule. The same is subject to the exception found in the third paragraph of the same article, namely, when the execution of said act shall have only resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damage to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less than 25 pesos."[12]


Failure to give assistance to victim

The penalty next higher in degree to those provided for in this article shall be imposed upon the offender who fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in this hand to give.[13]

The proviso that "the provisions contained in this article shall not be applicable" clearly refers to the preceding paragraphs. Paragraphs "1" and "2" are exceptions to the application of the said preceding paragraphs under the circumstances mentioned. The last paragraph on failure to lend aid on the spot necessarily applies to all situations envisioned in the said Article whenever there is an injured party.[14]


Imprudence resulting to homicide

Article 365(2) of the Revised Penal Code provides that: "When, by imprudence or negligence and with violation of the Automobile Law, the death of a person shall be caused, in which case the defendant shall be punished by prision correccional in its medium and the maximum periods." The Supreme Court explained the he rationale behind this crime:

A man must use common sense, and exercise due reflection in all his acts; it is his duty to be cautious, careful, and prudent, if not from instinct, then through fear of incurring punishment. He is responsible for such results as anyone might foresee and for acts which no one would have performed except through culpable abandon. Otherwise his own person, rights and property, all those of his fellow-beings, would ever be exposed to all manner of danger and injury.[15]

Republic Act No. 587, which took effect on 1 January 1957, amended Act No. 3992, otherwise known as the Motor Vehicle Law, in the sense that section 67 (d) of the latter Act is now to the effect that "if, as the result of negligence or reckless or unreasonably fast driving any accident occurs resulting in death or serious bodily injury to any person, the motor vehicle driver at fault shall, upon conviction be punished under the provisions of the Penal Code." Accordingly, the petitioner should be convicted, in conformity with article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, of the complex crime of homicide with serious physical injuries and damage to property through reckless imprudence under the first and third paragraphs of article 365 of the Revised Penal Code.[16]

The imposable penalty, under Art. 365 (2) of the Revised Penal Code, homicide resulting from reckless imprudence in the use of motor vehicle is prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, which ranges from two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to six (6) years. Under Article 65 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty shall be divided into three equal portions of time, each of which shall form one period. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the proper penalty shall be within the medium period, which is three (3) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days to four (4) years, nine (9) months and ten (10) days. Applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant is entitled to a minimum term to be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, which is arresto mayor, maximum to prision correccional, minimum. Accordingly, appellant should be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum.12[17]


References

  1. Art. 365. Imprudence and negligence. — Any person who, by reckless imprudence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period; if it would have constituted a less grave felony, the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods shall be imposed; if it would have constituted a light felony, the penalty of arresto menor in its maximum period shall be imposed.
    Any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall commit an act which would otherwise constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods; if it would have constituted a less serious felony, the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period shall be imposed.
    When the execution of the act covered by this article shall have only resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damages to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less than twenty-five pesos.
    A fine not exceeding two hundred pesos and censure shall be imposed upon any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall cause some wrong which, if done maliciously, would have constituted a light felony.
    In the imposition of these penalties, the court shall exercise their sound discretion, without regard to the rules prescribed in Article sixty-four.
    The provisions contained in this article shall not be applicable:
    1. When the penalty provided for the offense is equal to or lower than those provided in the first two paragraphs of this article, in which case the court shall impose the penalty next lower in degree than that which should be imposed in the period which they may deem proper to apply.
    2. When, by imprudence or negligence and with violation of the Automobile Law, to death of a person shall be caused, in which case the defendant shall be punished by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods.
    Reckless imprudence consists in voluntary, but without malice, doing or falling to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing of failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
    Simple imprudence consists in the lack of precaution displayed in those cases in which the damage impending to be caused is not immediate nor the danger clearly manifest.
    The penalty next higher in degree to those provided for in this article shall be imposed upon the offender who fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in this hand to give. (As amended by R.A. 1790, approved June 21, 1957).
  2. Samson vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-10364 and L-10376, 31 March 1958, citing Quizon vs. The Hon. Justice of the Peace of Bacolor, Pampanga, 97 Phil. 342 (1955)
  3. People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 153591, 23 February 2004, citing Quizon v. The Hon. Justice of the Peace of Bacolor, Pampanga, 97 Phil. 342 (1955)
  4. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  5. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  6. People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 153591, 23 February 2004
  7. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  8. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  9. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  10. People vs. Aguilar, G.R. No. L-11302, 28 October 1960
  11. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  12. People vs. Bueno, G.R. No. L-10849, 30 April 1958
  13. Revised Penal Code, Art. 365
  14. Ibabao vs. People, G.R. No. L-36957, 28 September 1984
  15. U.S. vs. Maleza, 14 Phil. 468, 470 (1909), cited in People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 153591, 23 February 2004
  16. Lapuz vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-6382, 30 March 1954
  17. People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 153591, 23 February 2004, citing Abueva vs. People, G.R. No. 134387, 27 September 2002, 390 SCRA 62
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