Crimes have different prescription periods

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Until when may a person who committed a crime or violation of a city ordinance be prosecuted for his act?

Dear Moses,
Our laws prescribe a certain time within which a person may be prosecuted for his commission of a crime or violation of a special law. The failure of the offended party or the proper authorities to commence an action during these periods shall result in the prescription of the crime or the loss of their right to prosecute the offenders.

The period of prescription for the prosecution of a crime or a violation of city ordinances and special laws, shall depend on the duration of the penalty meted out by the law for such violation. The prescriptive periods for crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code are found in Article 90 thereof, to wit:
“Article 90. Prescription of crime.—Crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or reclusion temporal shall prescribe in twenty years.

Crimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years.

Those punishable by a correctional penalty shall prescribe in ten years; with the exception of those punishable by arresto mayor, which shall prescribe in five years.

The crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year.

The crime of oral defamation and slander by deed shall prescribe in six months.

Light offenses prescribe in two months.

When the penalty fixed by law is a compound one, the highest penalty shall be made the basis of the application of the rules contained in the first, second and third paragraphs of this article” (As amended by Republic Act No. 4661, approved June 19, 1966).

The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information (Article 91, Revised Penal Code).

On the other hand, the prescriptive periods for violations penalized by special laws and ordinances are found in Section 1 of Act 3326, to wit:

“SECTION 1. Violations penalized by special acts shall, unless otherwise provided in such acts, prescribe in accordance with the following rules: (a) after a year for offenses punished only by a fine or by imprisonment for not more than one month, or both; (b) after four years for those punished by imprisonment for more than one month, but less than two years; (c) after eight years for those punished by imprisonment for two years or more, but less than six years; and (d) after twelve years for any other offense punished by imprisonment for six years or more, except the crime of treason, which shall prescribe after twenty years. Violations penalized by municipal ordinances shall prescribe after two months.”

The period shall begin to run from the day of the commission of the violation of the law, and if the same be not known at the time, from the discovery thereof and the institution of judicial proceeding for its investigation and punishment (Section 2, Act 3326).

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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  1. I am a U.S.resident. I was accused of oral defamation in Jan, 2007. Is that charge still stand? This happened in the Philippines. I will appreciate your comment very much.

    • Atty. please help me to solve my case. I will appreciate it very much.
      With respect.
      case- defamation of character. 7 years ago