If you commit or are suspected of committing a crime in Singapore, you may be placed under arrest by the police. This essentially means you will be taken into custody at a police station or detention centre – or a remand home for juveniles – to be questioned and possibly charged with an offence. Police officers are given the power to use reasonable force if the offender refuses to cooperate, through the use of handcuffs or other forms of restraint, but may choose to avoid the use of force where possible.
The powers of the police in Singapore and the rights of individuals are detailed in the Criminal Procedure Code. The code outlines which offences require a warrant for arrest, how suspects are treated in custody and what forms of force may be used to place someone under arrest.
Here, we’ll go through your rights and key facts to be aware of if you are ever arrested in Singapore.
You cannot be held in custody for more than 48 hours without a charge or court order
Police custody is only a temporary power provided to the authorities. The accused must be released after 48 hours unless the police have formally charged them with an offence or been granted approval by the court. If you are charged, you will usually be released until your court hearing on condition of bail in the form of cash or personal property. However, if the offence is serious or you are considered a flight risk, you may be denied bail and detained until the hearing.
You can question and object to any detainment exceeding 48 hours
If the authorities wish to detain you for longer than 48 hours, they will need to provide the court with a valid reason for doing so. While the court has the final say, you have the right to object and ask for an explanation as to why they are applying to hold you in custody.
You have the right to rectify or delete any part of the statement before signing
The police will often require an arrested person to detail their account of an incident with a written statement, which must be truthful and in English. Importantly, you have the right to amend and delete any part of your statement before you sign it, and you can request for the statement to be video recorded instead. The police cannot force you to sign the statement until you are satisfied with its accuracy, and if the accused does not speak English, it must be interpreted to them in a language they understand.
You can call a lawyer or family member while in custody
If you are arrested, you have the right to contact a lawyer for advice. You can also speak with a family member to notify them of your arrest, and to get them to post bail.
You do not have to say anything that implicates you
The CPC states that you are bound to “state truly what [you] know of the facts and circumstances of the case”. Lying to the police not only diminishes your credibility, but is also a chargeable offence in itself. However, you do not need to say anything that may indicate your guilt. This is one reason why suspects should contact a lawyer for advice on what you should and shouldn’t say while in custody.
The police have the right to conduct a search
The police are permitted to search a suspect’s person, their possessions, their property and any part of the home or workplace that may contain evidence. Female suspects must be searched by a female officer. The court has the discretion to return or withhold any possessions that are confiscated as evidence during the investigation.