Penal Law: People v Roberto Rodriguez Rosario 163 DPR 98 (2004)

In this court case, Mr. Rosario was charged with having pushed a municipal agent while in detention. He was charged under less serious crimes and sentenced to a suspended sentence of 30 days and payment of $1,500 fine. The Criminal Code 33 LPRA 4032 had stipulated a maximum of $500 fine for less serious crimes.  However, the judges were of the view that the law allowed for an increase in fines for all less serious offenses under the Criminal Code to make it at par with the economic reality of the country. Eventually, Mr Rosario decided to appeal the ruling by arguing that an extra fine has been imposed on him. The Supreme Court overturned a ruling of aggravated assault in which the accused was convicted with a fine of $1,500. The Supreme Court judges recognized the fact that the initial legislative framework had allowed for an increase in fines for misdemeanor to a maximum of $5000.  However, the initial legislative framework did not stipulate the maximum penalty for specific crimes. In this regard, the law had to be interpreted restrictively in the favor of the accused. Therefore, the court lacked the authority to impose a fine higher than $500.

The principle of law being tested in this ruling is the principle of legality. It provides for a limitation for the courts to criminally prosecute an accused of acts that are not prohibited by the law and impose penalties that are not provided by the law (Samaha, 2013). The penal code provides that for the state to direct a criminal action, there should be a prior law that provided for the offense and its punishment. The theoretical concept here is that statutes need to be interpreted restrictively and any doubt within the scope of its application must be made in the favor of the accused.

Crimes can be classified as serious and less serious crimes depending on the probable punishment for the crime. Serious crimes are those that warrant a six (6) months imprisonment and a fine of $5,000 or more.  On the other hand, less serious crimes are those that warrant a punishment not exceeding six (6) months and a fine not exceeding $5,000. If any act of omission or commission is declared a crime and the legislature has not been set, then is classified as a misdemeanor and the principle of restrictive interpretation applies (Neubauer, 2010).

 

References

Neubauer, D.W. (2010). America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System.  Wadsworth Publishing; 10 edition

Samaha, J. (2013). Criminal Law. Cengage Learning; 11 edition

 

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