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Free legal tips & news on Criminal Law in Singapore
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If you commit a crime in Singapore and are charged before the court, you will have the option to plead guilty or defend your case at trial. If you choose to plead guilty or are found guilty at the end of a trial, the court will decide on an appropriate…
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Whatever your concerns may be, our criminal defence lawyers come with a wealth of experience and knowledge to help you through the process.
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Here are some common legal issues in Singapore and criminal law that we can help you with:
Here are some things you should know about arrests made by the Police or other enforcement agencies: Who can conduct an arrest? The Police and other enforcement agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) can conduct…
Here are some things you should know about bail which may be issued by the Police (and other enforcement agencies) or the Court: What is bail? Bail is a sum of money that is provided as security to obtain the release of the suspect or accused from the custody of…
Here are some things you should know about investigations conducted by the Police or other enforcement agencies: Why are investigations conducted? Investigations are conducted to obtain information and evidence for the purpose of determining the following: Whether there is sufficient evidence to show that a criminal offence has potentially been disclosed…
Here are some things you should know about criminal proceedings that are conducted in Court: When will criminal proceedings in Court start? You will be required to attend Court when you have been formally charged for a criminal offence by the Police. You may also be required to attend Court…
Here are some things you should know about pleading guilty to a charge in Court: What does it mean when you plead guilty to a charge? When you plead guilty to a charge, you will be considered to have acknowledged that you have committed the offence alleged in the charge…
Here are some things you should know about claiming trial to a charge in Court: What does it mean to claim trial to a charge? When you have been formally charged in Court for an offence, you will need to inform the Court of the course of action you wish…
Mitigation Plea Here are some things you should know about presenting a plea in mitigation during sentencing in Court: What is a mitigation plea? After you have been found guilty and convicted of an offence, the Court will need to consider what type and amount of sentence to impose against…
Here are some things you should know about what a Court considers during the process of deciding on the appropriate sentence: What are the objectives of sentencing? There are 4 main sentencing principles which guide the Court during sentencing: Retribution: this is the principle that the offender must suffer the…
Useful links about Singapore Criminal Law Singapore Statutes Online Supreme Court of Singapore State Courts of Singapore Singapore Police Force Singapore Prison Service Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore Ministry of Law Ministry of Home Affairs Ministry of Manpower Singapore Law Watch Related Links Tembusu Law LLC The Singapore Lawyer…
Frequently asked questions
Arrests: Do the Police need a Court warrant to arrest you?
» Do the Police need a Court warrant to arrest you?
Depending on the type of criminal offence involved, the Police can arrest you with or without getting a Court-issued warrant to detain you for investigations or to produce you in Court to be formally charged for a criminal offence.
If the Police do not have a Court Warrant, they can only arrest you when they have a reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed an arrestable offence.
Examples of arrestable offences (which is found in the Criminal Procedure Code) include:
- Theft, Cheating and Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT)
- Criminal intimidation and criminal trespass
- Dishonestly receiving or retaining stolen property
- Robbery, unlawful assembly & rioting
- Voluntarily causing grievous hurt, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means
- Sexual assault by penetration without consent (including oral or anal sex), commercial sex with minor under 18 years of age, doing an obscene act in a public place
- Drug trafficking, possession or consumption
- Offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act
- Assault or use of criminal make to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty
For non-arrestable offences, the Police will typically need to get a Court Warrant before they can effect an arrest.
» How long can the Police detain you?
The Police can detain and keep you in custody for up to a maximum of 48 hours from the time of your arrest before you must be released
If the Police need to extend your detention beyond 48 hours, they must bring you to Court and get the Court’s permission by giving reasons for the extension.
If the Police do not get the Court’s permission to extend your detention, you’ll be released from custody provided you promise to attend at a Police station to cooperate with investigations or to attend Court to answer for formal criminal charges).
» Can you contact your lawyer after your arrest?
You’ll be allowed to consult a Criminal Defence lawyer within a reasonable time allowed for the Police to carry out their investigations – how long this time depends on the facts your case and it is extended by the Police if allowing you to speak your Criminal Defence lawyer would obstruct their investigations.
Bail: When can you be released on bail?
» When can you be released on bail?
You can get released on bail in two situations: Police Bail and Court Bail.
Police Bail (or Agency Bail) is given to you during investigations or when you’re investigated or charged by the Police or other enforcement agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
Court bail is given to you during your criminal case in Court.
» Who can be your bailor?
Your bailor must satisfy the following criteria:
- At least 21 years old
- Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident
- Cannot be an undischarged bankrupt
- Cannot have an ongoing or pending criminal case in Court
- Accepts the responsibilities of a bailor until the case is concluded
- Agrees to pledge security (either in cash or in personal properties) for the amount of bail
» What duties will your bailor have?
Your bailor or surety is the person who promises and undertakes to pay the specified sum of money if you fail to appear before the Police or Court. More than one surety is needed if the bail is of a large amount. In some situations, the Police can allow you to pay for your own security by making a personal bond or undertaking by yourself by without the need for a separate bailor. In Court proceedings, you cannot be your own bailor unless the Court allows.
Your bailor’s main responsibility is to ensure that you attend before the Court (or Police) whenever needed until the close of the case (or investigations).
Your bailor is liable to forfeit the full amount of bail if the accused person or suspect fails to attend before the Court or Police when needed or if he fails to comply with any of the conditions of bail.
Investigations: How are Police investigations conducted?
» How are Police investigations conducted?
The Police and authorities conduct investigations to get information and evidence that helps them decide:
- Whether there is enough evidence to prove that a criminal offence has been disclosed or is about to be committed.
- Whether there is any basis or enough evidence to take any action against you for the criminal offence in question.
Apart from the Police, other enforcement agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and also Statutory Boards can conduct investigations into potential criminal or regulatory offences
» What is a Witness Statement?
A Witness Statement / Investigation Statement contains your version of the facts regarding the offence being investigated:
- You must tell the truth in this statement
- It is a criminal offence to lie or give false information in this statement, and you’re liable to be prosecuted for doing so.
- The interview is conducted in the language that you understand and through an interpreter if necessary. The statement recorded in English is interpreted to you in the language that you understand.
- You’ll be given with an opportunity to read and amend your statement before signing it to ensure that it contains an accurate account of what you said during your interview to the investigators.
- You can decline to make any statement or comment which would expose you to a Criminal charge.
- The contents of your Witness Statement can be used against you in Court if it was recorded from you voluntarily.
- The statement is regarded as having been voluntarily recorded from by you if you gave the contents and signed the statement on your own free will and without any inducement, threat or promise from the person interviewing you
» Do you have the right to remain silent when you’re charged?
When you’re being formally charged and asked to sign the Cautioned Statement, you have the right to remain silent (meaning you can choose not to mention the facts which you want to rely on in your defence).
However, your defence can not be fully accepted or believed by a Court at trial if you had failed to mention your defence in the Cautioned Statement earlier and instead only mentioned it later at the trial. This is because the Court can feel that your defence has only been recently created and it is less credible or it is not true.
Court process: What takes place at your first hearing in Court?
» What takes place at your first hearing in Court?
When you first attend in Court to answer to the Criminal charge, the Criminal charge (e.g. the nature of the criminal offence) are formally read and explained to you in Court in the language which you understand and through an interpreter if necessary.
- The Criminal charge will contain the essential and basic details of the alleged offence e.g. date, time, location and person or property involved
- The Criminal charge will also contain the punishment prescribed by law for the offence e.g. maximum punishment, minimum punishment and any mandatory types or amounts of punishment
- If you’re alleged to have committed and you’re charged for more than one offence, each offence is stated in a separate Criminal charge
If any other person is involved in having committed the offence together with you, he will be charged together with you for the same offence and a separate Criminal charge is preferred against him
You must inform the Court of the course of action you want to you take:
- Plead guilty (meaning you want to admit to the Criminal charge and accept that you’ll be punished for the offence)
- Claim trial (meaning you want to deny that you committed the offence as alleged and you want to prove your innocence or give your defence at a trial in Court)
» Can you ask for an adjournment to get more time to decide on what to do?
You can ask for the Court to grant you an adjournment if you need more time to prepare your case or consult a Criminal Defence lawyer before you decide on your next course of action.
The Court will review the reasons for your request for an adjournment and then decide whether these reasons are of merit and deserving of your request being given.
If the case is adjourned, you are needed to furnish Court bail to ensure your attendance at the next hearing in Court or whenever needed.
» What can you do before you decide to plead guilty or claim trial?
You can make an appeal to the Prosecution (meaning the Public Prosecutor / Attorney-General’s Chambers or the Police or other enforcement agencies which is prosecuting the Criminal charge against you Court) to ask them to take a more lenient course of action against you.
- These appeals are also called “representations
- This process of appealing to the Prosecution and persuading them to grant your requests is sometimes called the plea bargaining or plea negotiation process.
Although you can make this appeal on your own, you can want to consult a Criminal Defence lawyer to get a clearer understanding of the facts and circumstances which is relevant to the Prosecution’s review of your appeal.
The Prosecution will review the reasons for your appeal and then decide whether these reasons are of merit and deserving of your request getting approved.
You will benefit from engaging a Criminal Defence lawyer to prepare the appeal or representations on your behalf for a number of reasons, including:
- The Criminal Defence lawyer is able to identify and direct the Prosecution’s attention towards facts and circumstances which are particularly relevant in your case
- The Criminal Defence lawyer is in a better position to understand and address matters of law or government policy which is relevant in the Prosecution’s review of your appeal or representations
- The Criminal Defence lawyer would be able to advise you on the relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing any specific course of action
- The Criminal Defence lawyer would be able to advise you on the reasonable prospects of successfully claiming trial
The Prosecution has the discretion to decide on the nature and course of the prosecutorial action that is taken against you, including the following:
- Whether or not to Criminal charge you?
- What type of Criminal charge to issue against you?
- How many charges to prefer against you?
After the Prosecution has made a final decision on the nature and course of the prosecutorial action that is taken against, you must decide on whether you want to plead guilty or claim trial to the Criminal charge.
Pleading guilty: What happens when you plead guilty to a Criminal charge?
» What happens when you plead guilty to a Criminal charge?
When you plead guilty to a Criminal charge, you’re regarded as having accepted and acknowledged that you’ve committed the offence alleged in the Criminal charge and you are willing to be punished for the offence.
» What are the steps involved in pleading guilty?
If you are pleading guilty to the Criminal charge, you first must confirm that you understand the nature and consequences of pleading guilty and then the Court will accept your plea of guilt and convict you of the Criminal charge.
When you plead guilty to a Criminal charge, you’ll attend an open courtroom hearing (sometimes referred to as a Mention) before a Judge and attended by you or your Criminal Defence lawyer (if you’ve engaged one to represent you) and a Prosecuting Officer (for example, Deputy Public Prosecutor).
» What will the Charge and Statement of Facts (SOF) contain?
The Criminal charge and Statement of Facts (SOF) are read to you in a language which you understand and through an interpreter if necessary.
You’ll be asked to confirm that want to plead guilty to the Criminal charge and that you understand the nature and consequences of pleading guilty.
The Statement of Facts (SOF) is read to you.
- This contains the material facts relating to the offence and which can describe the nature of your involvement and conduct in committing the offence
- This also contains the facts which the Court are entitled to take into account in deciding the appropriate sentence to impose
You’ll be asked to admit to the facts as contained in the Statement of Facts:
- If you do not admit to the facts contained in the Statement of Facts, you must inform the Court accordingly
- If you disagree with parts of the Statement of Facts which are material and affect your acknowledgement and acceptance that you’ve committed the offence alleged, the Court will not accept your plea of guilt
- If so, you’ll need to review whether you want claim trial to the Criminal charge because you want to continue to dispute the facts in question
- Alternatively, you can inform the Court if you’re willing to concede and accept the facts as contained in the Statement of Facts
If you completely agree and accept the facts contained in the Statement of Facts, the Court will record your plea of guilt and convict you on the Criminal charge.
Mitigation: What is a mitigation plea?
» What is a mitigation plea?
After you’re found guilty and convicted of an offence, the Court will review what type and amount of sentence to impose against you.
Before the Court decides on and imposes the sentence, you’ll have an opportunity to inform the Court of any mitigating factors which you have.
Mitigating factors are facts, circumstances and reasons which you feel would justify a more lenient or less serious sentence imposed against you e.g. information and facts relating to your own personal circumstances, information and facts relating to the circumstances surrounding how the offence was committed or occurred.
The plea in mitigation (also known as the mitigation plea) is the written or oral presentation to the Court of your mitigation factors.
This is presented by your Criminal Defence lawyer or by yourself if you’re not legally represented.
A mitigation plea prepared by a Criminal Defence lawyer is in English. However, an interpreter can be provided to translate your mitigation plea for the Court’s understanding if you’re represented by a Criminal Defence lawyer and you want to orally present your mitigation plea in another language.
» What does a mitigation plea contain?
As the purpose of a mitigation plea is to persuade the Court to impose a lower, less severe or more appropriate punishment (in your view) for the offence committed, it should aim to highlight the following types of information for the Court’s review:
- Factors relating to your personal circumstances e.g. your family background, education and employment track record, medical conditions, evidence that sheds light on your character and attitude as well as information regarding his potential to be rehabilitated and to be reformed from your offending behaviour.
- Factors relating to the manner in which the offence was committed e.g. your specific role, the value of the property involved, the degree of any injury caused to the victim as well as other circumstances which allow the Court to better understand the context in which the offence took place (for example, provocation by the victim).
A mitigation plea must not include information which contradicts the Statement of Facts which you pleaded guilty to or disputes the facts and conclusions arrived at by the Judge after a trial.
» What happens after you present your mitigation plea?
After hearing your mitigation plea and any arguments by the Prosecution regarding the issue of sentencing, the Judge will impose a sentence against you.
Once the Judge has decided on the conviction and sentence, either party can make an appeal to the High Court in the following situations:
- If you’re sentenced after having pleaded guilty and you disagree with the Judge’s decision, you can make an appeal to the High Court against the sentence imposed. You can make an appeal against sentence if you feel that it was manifestly excessive or not supported by the facts or the law. The Prosecution can make an appeal against the sentence if it feels that it was manifestly inadequate or not supported by the facts or the law.
- If you’re convicted and sentenced after having claimed trial and you disagree with the Judge’s decisions, you can make an appeal to the High Court against the conviction and sentence.
- If you’re acquitted after having claimed trial, the Prosecution can make an appeal to the High Court against the acquittal.
You must file the formal application for an appeal within 10 calendar days from the date of conviction or sentence.
The High Court will review the reasons for any appeal then make a final decision as to whether those reasons are of merit and deserving of the appeal succeeding.
Sentencing: What are the objectives of sentencing?
» What are the objectives of sentencing?
There are 4 main sentencing principles which guide the Court during sentencing:
1. Retribution: this is the principle that the offender must suffer the penalty for the criminal act which he has carried out. Importantly, the principle of retribution includes the rule that the punishment must appropriately, proportionately and accurately reflect and fit the seriousness of the criminal act committed and the harm it has caused.
2. Deterrence: this is the principle that other potential offenders must be discouraged and reminded that they must not commit similar offences. This principle includes 2 other categories:
- General deterrence: this aims to educate members of the general public and deter other potential offenders by making an example of one specific offender to send a strong message that such offences will not be tolerated and are punished severely.
- Specific deterrence: this aims to educate and deter a specific individual offender (for example, a repeat offender) by sending a strong message that his particularly reprehensible actions (for example, unrepentant behaviour) will not be tolerated and they are punished severely.
3. Prevention: this is the principle that the offender must be physically incapacitated and removed from general public society because the members of the general public need to be protected from his dangerous behaviour and conduct.
4. Rehabilitation: this is the principle that seeks to help the offender reform himself from his offending behaviour and into a law-abiding person. This is principle is a major review for young offenders and those below 21-years of age.
» Why does the Court need to review the public interest?
The public interest is also a principal review which every Court will review in imposing sentence:
- This is because of the strong emphasis in Singapore on the importance of maintaining social order in the community by ensuring that every person obeys and follows the law.
- This belief behind this principle is that sentencing is important to reduce the occurrence of crime and to protect the members of our community.
- As such, the Court can impose a more severe sentence for an offence which is becoming increasingly prevalent so that the general public and potential offenders are reminded of the seriousness of the offence and not to commit them.
- In such a situation, the Court can take into account that public interest must outweigh any other mitigating factors (for example an offender’s young age and that a more severe sentence is justified despite the presence of such mitigating factors).
Claiming trial: What happens when you claim trial to the charge?
» What happens when you claim trial to the charge?
When you’re charged in Court for an offence, you must inform the Court of the course of action you want to take, either:
- Plead guilty (meaning you want to admit to the Criminal charge and accept that you’ll be punished for the offence)
- Claim trial (meaning you want to deny that you committed the offence as alleged and you want to prove your innocence or give your defence at a trial in Court)
If you claim trial, a court hearing is scheduled for you to defend yourself – this is where you present the evidence to persuade the Court to accept your basis for disputing the offence alleged. You can engage a Criminal Defence lawyer to represent you at a trial or you can conduct the trial on your own if you do not have one.
An administrative hearing known as a Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) is conducted to manage the progress of the case up to the day of the trial.
- The purpose of the PTC is to allow the parties to discuss how they want to manage the presentation of their evidence and make efficient use of the time allotted for the trial
- Trial hearing dates are scheduled once the parties involved in the case are prepared to start the trial
- The number of trial dates allocated depends on how many issues and how much evidence are involved in the case i.e. more trial dates are allocated for a case involving many or complicated issues and a large amount of evidence
- You must inform the Court of the evidence that you’ll be presenting and relying on
- You’ll also need to confirm the number of witnesses you want to call and their availability to attend the trial. If any of your witnesses do not speak English, the Court will provide interpreters for the trial.
- You’ll be responsible for ensuring that your witnesses attend the trial. You can apply to the Court to issue a formal notice (sometimes called a Subpoena) to make your witnesses attend the trial if you believe that they cannot attend voluntarily
» What happens at a trial?
At the criminal trial, the Prosecution will present their evidence first:
- The Prosecution will call their witnesses to testify and give evidence
- The Prosecuting Officer will conduct the examination-in-chief (EIC) of each Prosecution’s witness to present his evidence
- After the EIC of each witness, your Criminal Defence lawyer can conduct the cross-examination of the witness by asking him questions to challenge or contradict his testimony given by the witness.
- After the cross-examination, the Prosecuting Officer will conduct the re-examination of the witness by asking him to explain the answers provided during cross-examination.
After all the Prosecution’s witnesses have testified and given evidence, it will be your turn to present the evidence of your Defence witnesses – your witnesses will give evidence following the same procedure used for the examination of the Prosecution’s witnesses (meaning examination-in-chief followed by cross-examination and re-examination).
» What happens after all the witnesses have testified at the trial?
After all the Prosecution’s and Defence’s witnesses have finished testifying and giving evidence at the trial, the Prosecution and Defence (meaning you or your Criminal Defence lawyer) will present oral or written closing submissions to summarise the evidence presented at the trial and give reasons to convince the Judge why he should accept their respective evidence and why he should decide in their favour.
After closing submissions are presented, the Judge reviews the evidence and reasons and makes a final decision as to whether the Prosecution has succeeded in proving your guilt.
- If the Prosecution has proven its case against you and that you committed the offence alleged, the Judge will convict you of the Criminal charge and impose a sentence against you
- If the Prosecution has failed to prove its case against you, the Judge will acquit you of the Criminal charge
If you’re convicted of the Criminal charge, you’ll have an opportunity to inform the Judge of any mitigating factors which you have.
The Judge will review your mitigation plea and then impose a sentence against you.
Once a decision on the conviction and sentence is made by the Judge, either party can make an appeal to the High Court in the following situations:
- If you’re sentenced after pleading guilty and you disagree with the Judge’s decision, you can make an appeal to the High Court against the sentence imposed. You can appeal against the sentence if you feel that it was manifestly excessive (meaning too harsh) or not supported by the facts or the law.
- The Prosecution can appeal against your sentence if it feels that it was manifestly inadequate (meaning too lenient) or not supported by the facts or the law.
- If you’re convicted and sentenced after claiming trial and you disagree with the Judge’s decisions, you can appeal to the High Court against the conviction and sentence.
- If you’re acquitted after claiming trial, the Prosecution can appeal to the High Court against your acquittal.
You must file a written application for your appeal within 10 calendar days from the date of conviction or sentence.
Meet our criminal defence lawyers
Our criminal defence lawyers will understand and handle the special circumstances and needs of your unique situation with care and sensitivity and propose personalised solutions to solve your problems.
About Jonathan Wong
Jonathan is a specialist criminal defence lawyer in Singapore. He graduated from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom in 2002 and was called to the Bar of England and Wales (Gray’s Inn) in 2003.
Jonathan has the unique distinction of having formerly worked as a Prosecutor in two of the largest organisations responsible for conducting criminal prosecutions on behalf of the State – the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Manpower – prior to entering private practice, and he is experienced in handling all aspects of criminal trial litigation including negotiating plea bargains, defending accused persons at trial as well as presenting criminal appeals in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Why trust Tembusu Law when it comes to top criminal lawyers?
We have a plan for every situation. No matter what criminal case or problem you may be facing, our lawyers make it quick and easy to find a solution. We pay attention to details, we’re fast and we get the job done. We put you in full control of your goals, budget, deadlines, and help you find the smoothest path through the Criminal Justice process.
Our criminal defence lawyers keep your best interests at heart
As your criminal defence lawyers, our aim is to look after you, your case and your spending. That’s why we always work within a brief and budget that’s reasonable, feasible and sustainable for everyone. Whether you’re fighting against a wrongful conviction, for a better plea & sentencing proposal, for a light sentence or for your innocence, you choose your objectives and we’ll get you there. Your best interests are all that matter to us.
Engaging our best criminal defence lawyers in 3 steps
Talk about your case
Discuss your criminal case over a free consultation. Whether it’s a minor offence or a complex case involving many incidents, you can trust that we’ll share our frank views, point out possible problem-areas and suggest realistic options so you can make an informed choice knowing the details, benefits, risks and expected outcome of each one.
Choose how you’d like to start
Select a timetable, budget, and goals to focus on. You’ll choose the items of work and pick your ideal package and payment plan. We’re here to guide you every step of the way.
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Once your engagement is complete, our criminal lawyers can kickstart the representation. You’ll be updated on every piece of work, and we’ll proactively inform you of the status of your case and get your input throughout the process.
Our criminal lawyers are different from the rest
Here are some common criminal defence legal issues our lawyers can help you with:
We’re committed to helping people and serving a higher purpose – bringing more access to help, answers, fairness and justice.
Our purpose is the product of our ideals, our dreams, our ambitions. It explains why we make a difference and how we do it, and it gives us our meaning and guides our choices.
At Tembusu Law, we are purpose-driven and grateful for every client we help.
- Empathy: We will understand what you are going through and show compassion in helping you.
- Integrity: We will always do the right thing, because the time is always right to do what is right.
- Humility: We will put our ego aside and listen to your opinions and feedback because we can always do better.
- Tenacity: We will persevere and work even harder when the going gets tough, when no one else is looking and everyone else quits.
- Purpose: This is not ‘a’ job; this is ‘OUR’ job. We are grateful to have it, and we take pride in everything we do.