What is an impossible crime?

2000 Bar Examination Question (Impossible Crime)

1. What is an impossible crime?
2. Is an impossible crime really a crime?

1. An impossible crime is an act which would be an offense against person or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or on account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means. (Art.4, par.2 RPC)

2. No, an impossible crime is not really a crime. It is only so-called because the act gives rise to criminal liability. But actually, no felony is committed. The accused is to be punished for his criminal tendency o propensity although no crime was committed.


Bar Examination 2004

OZ and YO were both courting their co-employee, SUE. Because of their bitter rivalry, OZ decided to get rid of YO bu poisoning him. OZ poured a substance into YO's coffee thinking it was arsenic. It turned out that the substance was white sugar substitute known as Equal. Nothing happened to YO after he drank the coffee.

What criminal liability did OZ incur, if any? Explain briefly.

OZ incurred criminal liability for an impossible crime of murder. Criminal liability shall be incurred by any person performing an act which would be an offense against person or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or on account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means.(Art.4, par.2 RPC).

In the problem given, the impossibility of accomplishing the crime of murder, a crime against persons, was due to the employment of ineffectual means which OZ thought was poison. The law imputes criminal liability to the offender although no crime resulted, only to suppress his criminal propensity because subjectively, he is a criminal though objectively, no crime was committed.


1994 Bar Exam Question

JP, Aries and Randal planned to kill Elsa, a resident of Barangay Pula, Laurel, Batangas. They asked the assistance of Ella, who is familiar with the place.

On April 3, 1992, at about 10:00 in the evening, JP, Aries and Randal, all armed with automatic weapons, went to Barangay Pula. Ella, being the guide, directed her companions to the room in the house of Elsa. Whereupon, JP, Aries and Randal fired their guns at her room. Fortunately, Elsa was not around as she attended a prayer meeting that evening in another barangay in Laurel.

JP, et al, were charged and convicted of attempted murder by the Regional Trial Court at Tanauan, Batangas.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, all the accused ascribed to the trial court the sole error of finding them guilty of attempted murder. If you were the ponente, how will you  decide the appeal?

If I were the ponente, I will set aside the judgment convicting the accused of attempted murder and instead find them guilty of impossible crime under Art.4, par.2, RPC, in  relation to Art.59, RPC. Liability for impossible crime arise not only when the  impossibility is legal, but likewise when it is factual or physical impossibility, as in the case at bar. Elsa's absence from the house is a physical impossibility which renders  the crime intended inherently incapable of accomplishment. To convict the accused of attempted murder would make Art.4, par.2 practically useless as all circumstances which prevented the consummation of the offense will be treated as an incident independent of the actor's will which is an element of attempted or frustrated felony.(Intod vs. Ca, 215 SCRA 52)


1998 Bar Exam Question

Buddy always resented his classmate, Jun. One day, Buddy planned to kill Jun by mixing poison in his lunch. Not knowing where he can get poison, he approached another classmate, Jerry to whom he disclosed his evil plan. Because he himself harbored resentment towards Jun, Jerry gave Buddy a poison, which Buddy placed on Jun's food. However, Jun did not die because unknown to both Buddy and Jerry, the poison was actually powdered milk.

1. What crime or crimes, if any, did Jerry and Buddy commit?
2. Suppose that, because of his severe allergy to powdered milk, Jun has to be hospitalized for 10 days for ingesting it. Would your answer to the first question be the same?

1. Jerry and Buddy are liable for the so-called "impossible crime" because, with intent to kill, they tried to poison Jun and thus perpetrated murder, a crime against person. Jun was not poisoned only because the would be killers were unaware that what they mixed with the food of Jun was powdered milk, not poison. In short, the act done with criminal intent by Jerry and Buddy, would have constituted a crime against person were it not for the inherent inefficacy of the means employed. Criminal liability is incurred by them although no crime resulted, because their act act of trying to poison Jun is criminal.

2. No, the answer would not be the same as above. Jerry and Buddy would be liable instead for less serious physical injuries for causing the hospitalization and medical attendance for 10 days to Jun. Their act of mixing with the food eaten by Jun the matter which required such medical attendance, committed with criminal intent, renders them liable for the resulting injury.


2000 Bar Examination Question

Carla, 4 years old, was kidnapped by Enrique, th tricycle driver paid by her parents to bring and fetch her to and from school. Enrique wrote a ransom note demanding P500,000.00 from Carla's parents in exchange for Carla's freedom. Enrique sent the ransom note by mail. However, before the ransom note was received by Carla's parents, Enrique's hideout was discovered by the police. Carla was rescued while Enrique was arrested and incarcerated. Considering that the ransom note was not received by Carla's parents, the investigating prosecutor merely filed a case of "impossible crime to commit kidnapping" against Enrique.

Is the prosecutor correct? Why?

No, the prosecutor is not correct in filing a case for "impossible crime to commit kidnapping" against Enrique. Impossible crimes are limited only to acts which when  performed would be a crime against person or property. As kidnapping is a crime against personal security and not against persons or property, Enrique could not have incurred an "impossible crime" to commit kidnapping. There is thus no impossible crime of kidnapping.

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