How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
You may have been charged with a criminal offence in Singapore and are planning to represent yourself in court. However, you may not be ready to present your defence at the impending criminal court hearing and need more time to prepare for your case.
If you intend to miss the hearing, you should know that an accused who is absent for a court hearing without valid reasons may face penalties. In this case, what you can do to prevent these from happening is to request that the criminal court hearing be adjourned.
This article will explain:
What is Adjournment?
An adjournment of the criminal hearing means to temporarily suspend the hearing and/or postpone it to a later date. When the court grants an adjournment, you, as an accused, would have more time to prepare your defence. This may include finding a criminal lawyer to represent you, raising money to pay an anticipated fine, or settling your personal affairs in the event that you need to serve a jail term.
Who Can Apply to Adjourn a Hearing?
Either you, as the accused, or the prosecutor may apply to the court for an adjournment of a hearing. The prosecution can apply for an adjournment to conduct further investigations on your case, apply for reports (e.g., medical reports or Health Sciences Authority reports), obtain instructions from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on your case, or review and reply to the representations made by you.
You can apply for an adjournment even if you have been remanded. If your matter is adjourned (whether following an application from you or the prosecutor), the judge can also decide if you can be released on bail until the next hearing.
The victim of the offence (if any) cannot apply to adjourn the hearing. This is because they are not a litigant to the case. However, the prosecution may apply to adjourn the hearing on the victim’s behalf if he or she is too ill to attend it.
Can the Court Itself Choose to Adjourn a Hearing?
The court is empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to postpone or adjourn a hearing for as long as it considers reasonable. This could be due to the witness being absent for the hearing, or if there is any other reasonable cause making an adjournment necessary or advisable.
There are no strict rules on what constitutes reasonable cause or what is necessary or advisable, and the court is given broad discretion under the CPC to adjourn hearings.
How to Apply For an Adjournment in Singapore
First, you can apply for adjournment orally, in writing or online. For an oral application, you can inform the judge during the hearing that you want to adjourn it. If your request for the adjournment is approved, you will receive a mention slip with the venue, date and time of your next court hearing.
If you are unable to attend the hearing (with valid reasons), you can make a formal application in writing before the hearing date. There is no requirement for how early you should send your application, although sending it earlier gives the court more time to review it. This application must be addressed to the Registrar of the State Courts and must clearly state your particulars, the original mention/trial dates as well as the court in which the matter is fixed.
After that, the application should be submitted to “The Registrar, State Courts, 1 Havelock Square, Singapore 059724”. If your application is approved, the Court Officer will then inform you in writing of the new mention date and time or fix your matter for a pre-trial conference (if you had applied to adjourn a trial hearing).
If your case is under the State Courts Integrated Criminal Case Filing and Management System (ICMS), you can file an online application to reschedule the court hearing date. You may either access ICMS via the internet or use the ICMS kiosks located in the State Courts. You can then check the application status of your adjournment request on ICMS using your SingPass to log in. If your adjournment request is approved, the new date and time for the court hearing will be shown in ICMS.
For Night Court cases, you may complete and submit the Application for Adjournment Form to the Registrar of the State Courts.
Your applications must be supported with valid reasons. Such valid reasons include the following:
- To consult or engage a criminal defence lawyer (including volunteer lawyers who can represent you pro bono if you qualify under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme).
- To write a letter of representation to the prosecutor assigned to your case. This is essentially a letter to the AGC setting out reasons why they should not charge you, drop the charges against you or seek a particular sentence from the court.
- To raise funds to pay any fine that you may have to pay if you are eventually convicted and sentenced.
- To compound the matter (i.e. settle the charge without a conviction, where applicable).
- (If you have already been sentenced) To settle some personal affairs before serving your sentence.
Can an Application For Adjournment be Objected to?
The other party (in criminal cases, this is usually the prosecution) can object to your adjournment application. The court will then decide on your application after hearing the reasons given by you and the other party.
Can an Application For Adjournment be Rejected?
The court can reject your application for adjournment if it is not satisfied with your reasons for the adjournment. You will then be notified to attend court on the original hearing date either in writing or on ICMS (if you had applied through this method).
As adjournments are entirely up to the court’s discretion, the court may also not be inclined to accede to grant the adjournment if you do not provide any valid reasons for requiring it.
If your application is rejected, you must attend the court hearing originally scheduled. If you fail to do so, a warrant of arrest may be issued against you. This means you may be arrested by the police and brought to court, where you will be asked to explain your absence on the previous hearing date. If you are unable to give a satisfactory reason for your absence, you may be fined for not turning up for the hearing.
If you had been out on bail when you failed to turn up for the hearing for which your adjournment application was unsuccessful, the bail amount may also be forfeited.
How Long May an Adjournment be, If Successfully Applied For?
This is up to the court’s discretion, and the adjournment may be for days or weeks. If you want to “extend” your adjournment, you will have to make another application to adjourn the new scheduled hearing date.
Can There be Multiple Adjournments For a Single Matter?
The court can grant multiple adjournments for a single matter, subject to its discretion. However, if several adjournments have been granted (especially for the same purpose), it is unlikely that the court will grant you any further adjournments.
While either you or the prosecutor may apply to adjourn a criminal court hearing, the court has ultimate discretion over whether to grant it and will consider the reasons given by the applicant seeking to adjourn the hearing. The other party may also object to the adjournment application. If your adjournment application has been rejected, you must attend the originally scheduled hearing date. Otherwise, you may be arrested and brought into court as well as fined. If you had been out on bail, the bail amount may also be forfeited.
You are recommended to engage a criminal lawyer if you need assistance in applying for an adjournment in Singapore. A criminal lawyer would be able to make the adjournment application on your behalf and advise you on your case throughout the criminal proceedings.
While the process of applying for an adjournment may be relatively simple, there are other aspects of defending yourself in a criminal matter, such as researching relevant legal cases and preparing a mitigation plea, that could be more complicated to carry out. A criminal lawyer would be able to assist you in these aspects and put your best case forward. This is especially if the offence you are charged with is serious and a conviction may result in a hefty fine or jail time.
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