What is doli incapax?

Doli incapax refers to a presumption that a child is "incapable of crime" under legislation or common law. Or rather, the presumption that a child cannot form mens rea as they do not yet have a sufficient understanding between "right and wrong." (en.wikipedia.org)

The words "doli incapax" mean "a child incapable of crime." The rationale for the presumption of doli incapax is that a child (someone who is underage usually set by law) is "not sufficiently intellectually and morally developed to appreciate the difference between right and wrong." [1]

In the Philippines, the age of criminal responsibility is 15.

Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006 sets the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old. This means that those between 15 to 18 years old may be detained in youth centers and go through rehabilitation programs. Those under 15 years old are exempted from criminal liability and undergo intervention. However, as to those between ages 15 and 18, "discernment" is still a factor required by law to be considered by the courts. [2]

Too young. For centuries, there was a conclusive presumption under the common law (doli incapax) that children up to a certain age were incapable of criminal intent. The classical theory that saw in Man the absolute voluntariness to discern, also saw in minors the lack of that capacity to discern. The science to affirm the proof of the proposition was not even extant then. [3]

Society has since become more enlightened. And science has supplied the evidence that, indeed,  there is still an immaturity in neurodevelopment at that early adolescence stage. Developmental milestones are governed by law. As repeatedly pointed out in public discussions, they are not old enough to marry, to contract nor to vote. They can’t buy a drink, a smoke or even a movie ticket. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. But here are SIX evidentiary proofs confirming that the State already knows that minors do not have the same capacity to discern as adults. [3]LAW: A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.

A child above fifteen (15) years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.

The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws. [4]

[1] Child accused between 10-13 years – doli incapax. www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au/eManuals/CHCBB/60942.htm.
[2] Sofia Tomacruz (2018). Lower criminal age of responsibility? Fully implement Juvenile Justice law first. Published 4:20 PM, August 24, 2018. Updated 4:21 PM, August 24, 2018. www.rappler.com/nation/210291-fully-implement-juvenile-justice-law-first-before-lowering-criminal-age-responsibility.
[3] Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. Doli incapax. The Philippine Star. SEARCH FOR TRUTH. January 26, 2019 - 12:00am www.philstar.com/opinion/2019/01/26/1888188/doli-incapax.
[4] Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9344 or Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

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