Death extinguishes criminal liability

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
What will happen to the case that is filed against an accused who dies while the case is still pending trial?

Dear Patrick,
According to Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines, death extinguishes criminal liability. Thus, a criminal case filed against an accused who dies while the case is still pending resolution shall be terminated. The same is true insofar as civil liability arising from the crime is concerned, if death occurs after arraignment and while the case is still pending trial or on appeal. Nevertheless, the independent civil action arising from other sources of obligation shall continue or may be instituted thereafter. This is in accordance with the RPC, particularly Section 4, Rule 111, which provides:

“Section 4. Effect of death on civil actions. — The death of the accused after arraignment and during the pendency of the criminal action shall extinguish the civil liability arising from the delict. However, the independent civil action instituted under Section 3 of this Rule or which thereafter is instituted to enforce liability arising from other sources of obligation may be continued against the estate or legal representative of the accused after proper substitution or against said estate, as the case may be. The heirs of the accused may be substituted for the deceased without requiring the appointment of an executor or administrator and the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor heirs.


If the accused dies before arraignment, the case shall be dismissed without prejudice to any civil action the offended party may file against the estate of the deceased.”

Clearly, based on the foregoing, if the accused dies after arraignment and before the finality of the decision of the court, the criminal liability is extinguished. The case therefore shall be terminated in whatever stage it may be. Civil liability arising from the offense charged shall likewise be extinguished.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to guide you with our opinion on the matter.

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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