• Death ends criminal, civil liability

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    What will happen if, during the pendency of the case, the accused dies? For instance, the victim receives a favorable decision from the lower court so the accused files his appeal. While the Court of Appeals was still trying the case, the accused dies. Can someone still be made liable for the crime committed? Can the spouse or children of the accused be made to answer for the monetary award in favor of the victim?

    Dear Ivan,
    There are five sources of obligation, to wit: (1) law; (2) contracts; (3) quasi-contracts; (4) acts or omissions punished by law; and (5) quasi-delicts (Article 1157, New Civil Code of the Philippines). Regarding the liability of one person who commits a crime against another, the provisions of our Revised Penal Code (RPC) must be primarily taken into consideration, subject to the provisions of the New Civil Code (NCC).

    In the situation that you have presented before us, we submit that the criminal case filed against the accused will be terminated if he passes away during the pendency of his appeal. This is in consonance with Article 89 of the RPC that expressly provides: “Criminal liability is totally extinguished: 1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment; 2. By service of the sentence; 3. By amnesty, which completely extinguishes the penalty and all its effects; 4. By absolute pardon; 5. By prescription of the crime; 6. By prescription of the penalty; 7. By the marriage of the offended woman, as provided in Article 344 of this Code.” (Emphases supplied)

    Since the criminal liability of the accused is extinguished, no other person may be held liable for the crime personally committed by the deceased accused. The said liability may not be transmitted to his heirs. While it is true that obligations of persons are transmitted to his heirs or assigns through his death, this is only insofar as the right to succession of inheritance is concerned. This does not in any way overturn the specific provisions of our criminal laws.

    In the same vein, the civil liability of the accused arising from and insofar as the crime he has committed is likewise extinguished. The spouse or children of the deceased accused may not be made to answer for the monetary award in favor of the victim, unless such civil obligation may be predicated on other sources of obligations. This is in line with the decision of our Supreme Court (SC) in the case of People v. Baluyot (670 SCRA 285, G.R. 200030), which reiterated the guidelines laid down under the ruling of the SC in the case of People v. Bayotas (236 SCRA 239): “x x x 1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as the civil liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, “the death of the accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising from and based solely on the offense committed, x x x 2. Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of [the]accused, if the same may also be predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. x x x”

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts 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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


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    1. Questions

      Judgment for serious physical injuries with restitutions, pending appeal will the defendant still be liable?

      Different case, when the defendant through reckless imprudence run the ground of the pedestrian into the property of complainant wrecking the fence and the latter got hurt and defendant was judged to pay, pending appeal will the estate of the defendant be liable to pay?

    2. Just for purposes of Query

      Let us say, the assailant who inflicted serious physical injuries, to include tearing the victims bags, clothes, wrist watch, jewelries was ruled to pay damages and he appealed and while on appeal he died. Will the civil aspect to include the damages for the physical injuries be payable?

      Another, the defendant through reckless imprudence runned his truck in the property of the complainant causing damages to the property and hurting the latter. Defendant was a judged to pay, pending appeal he died. Will his estate be liable to pay?