Luz v. People (G. R. No. 197788; February 29, 2012)

CASE DIGEST: RODEL LUZ y ONG v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES. (G. R. No. 197788; February 29, 2012).

FACTS: PO2 Emmanuel L. Alteza testified that he saw the accused driving a motorcycle without a helmet and this prompted him to flag down the accused for violating a municipal ordinance which requires all motorcycle drivers to wear helmet while driving said motor vehicle. He invited the accused to come inside their sub-station since the place where he flagged down the accused is almost in front of the sub-station to where he is assigned as a traffic enforcer. While he and SPO1 Rayford Brillante were issuing a citation ticket for violation of municipal ordinance, he noticed that the accused was uneasy and kept on getting something from his jacket. He was alerted and so, he told the accused to take out the contents of the pocket of his jacket as the latter may have a weapon inside it. The accused obliged and slowly put out the contents of the pocket of his jacket which included two (2) plastic sachets of suspected shabu. The RTC convicted petitioner of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. It found the prosecution evidence sufficient to show that he had been lawfully arrested for a traffic violation and then subjected to a valid search, which led to the discovery on his person of two plastic sachets later found to contain shabu. Upon review, the CA affirmed the RTCs Decision.

ISSUE: Were the search and seizure of the alleged subject shabu incident to a lawful arrest?

There was no valid arrest of petitioner. When he was flagged down for committing a traffic violation, he was not, ipso facto and solely for this reason, arrested.

Arrest is the taking of a person into custody in order that he or she may be bound to answer for the commission of an offense. It is effected by an actual restraint of the person to be arrested or by that person's voluntary submission to the custody of the one making the arrest. Neither the application of actual force, manual touching of the body, or physical restraint, nor a formal declaration of arrest, is required. It is enough that there be an intention on the part of one of the parties to arrest the other, and that there be an intent on the part of the other to submit, under the belief and impression that submission is necessary. Under R.A. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, the general procedure for dealing with a traffic violation is not the arrest of the offender, but the confiscation of the driver's license of the latter.At the time that he was waiting for PO3 Alteza to write his citation ticket, petitioner could not be said to have been under arrest. There was no intention on the part of PO3 Alteza to arrest him, deprive him of his liberty, or take him into custody. Prior to the issuance of the ticket, the period during which petitioner was at the police station may be characterized merely as waiting time. In fact, as found by the trial court, PO3 Alteza himself testified that the only reason they went to the police sub-station was that petitioner had been flagged down almost in front of that place. Hence, it was only for the sake of convenience that they were waiting there. There was no intention to take petitioner into custody.

Even if one were to work under the assumption that petitioner was deemed arrested upon being flagged down for a traffic violation and while awaiting the issuance of his ticket, then the requirements for a valid arrest were not complied with. At the time a person is arrested, it shall be the duty of the arresting officer to inform the latter of the reason for the arrest and must show that person the warrant of arrest, if any. Persons shall be informed of their constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel, and that any statement they might make could be used against them. It may also be noted that in this case, these constitutional requirements were complied with by the police officers only after petitioner had been arrested for illegal possession of dangerous drugs. GRANTED.