The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Table of Contents
- Bail vs Personal Bonds
- When Can a Person be Released on Bail or Personal Bond? Bailable and Non-Bailable Offences
- How is the Bail Amount Decided?
- How to Put Up the Bond Amount
- Who Can be a Surety?
- What are the Responsibilities of Sureties?
- What are the Restrictions Imposed on an Accused Released on Bail or Personal Bond?
- Can I Appeal against the Bail Decision?
- What Happens If the Accused Jumps Bail?
Bail vs Personal Bonds
What is bail?
Bail is the temporary release of an accused person from remand while awaiting trial. When an accused is released on bail, one or more persons (known as a surety, or bailor) must execute a bond for a sum of money to ensure the accused’s attendance in court.
What is a personal bond?
If the accused is offered release from remand upon signing a personal bond, this means that the accused himself will have to execute the bond for a sum of money in order to be released. The accused will not be able to have third-parties act as his surety.
When Can a Person be Released on Bail or Personal Bond? Bailable and Non-Bailable Offences
Offences are classified into bailable and non-bailable offences.
- For bailable offences, the accused is generally entitled to be released on bail and/or personal bond.
- For non-bailable offences, the police or the court has the discretion to decide whether to release an accused on bail or personal bond.
However, regardless of whether an offence is bailable or non-bailable, accused persons will not be able to be released on bail and/or personal bond if the offence is punishable with death or life imprisonment.
How to check whether an offence is bailable or non-bailable
We can check whether an offence is bailable or non-bailable by referring to the fifth column of the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code.
An example of a bailable offence is cheating (section 417 of the Penal Code) while an example of a non-bailable offence is rape (section 375(2) of the Penal Code).
After being charged with an offence, you may be held in remand to assist in further investigations, or to ensure that you attend court. When can you be released on bail? – If you’ve been charged with a BAILABLE offence, you are *entitled* to be bailed out if someone (aka a “surety”) puts up the required bail amount for you. But for NON-BAILABLE offences, this doesn’t mean that you cannot be released on bail. It just means that the police/court can *decide* whether to grant you bail. Their decision will be based on factors such as the seriousness of the alleged offence. – To find out whether an offence is bailable or non-bailable, check the 5th column of the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code. For example, cheating is a bailable offence while rape is not. – Also, note that being granted bail does NOT mean you’ve been given a “get out of jail free” card – emphasis on the word “free”. Your bail will come with conditions attached. For example, you must turn up for your court hearings or your surety’s bail money can be forfeited. #SingaporeLegalAdvice
If an accused has been accused of committing a bailable offence, he may be:
- Released on bail;
- Released on personal bond; or
- Released on bail and on personal bond
An accused who has been accused of committing a bailable offence may be denied release on bail or personal bond in certain situations.
Release of accused on bail
An accused who has been accused of committing a bailable offence can be released on bail if he is:
- Arrested or detained without warrant by the police, appears before a court or is brought before one; and
- Prepared to give bail at any time while in police custody or at any stage of court proceedings.
Release of accused on personal bond
Instead of taking bail from the accused, the police or the court may also release him if he signs a personal bond without sureties.
Release of accused on bail and on personal bond
Alternatively, the court may also release the accused on bail and on personal bond.
In such a situation, the accused will be required to post bail and sign a personal bond without sureties.
When can the court deny the release of the accused on bail and/or personal bond?
Even if the offence that the accused is accused of is a bailable offence, the court can deny the accused’s release on bail and/or personal bond where:
- The accused has been accused of an offence that is not a fine-only offence (i.e. an offence that is punishable only by a fine); and
- The court believes, on any ground stated in the Criminal Procedure Rules, that after being released, the accused will not:
- Surrender to custody;
- Be available for investigations; or
- Be available to attend court
Examples of such grounds in the Criminal Procedure Rules include:
- The accused is not a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident
- The accused’s background, criminal record, employment history, home environment, community ties and financial position
- The nature and seriousness of the offence that the accused has been accused of/charged with
- There is evidence that the accused has made preparations to jump bail
If an offence is non-bailable, this does not mean that release on bail and/or personal bond cannot be offered. Rather, what it means is that the police or the court has the discretion to decide whether to grant release on bail and/or on personal bond.
Some factors to be considered in deciding whether to grant release on bail and/or personal bond are:
- The nature and gravity (i.e. seriousness) of the offence the accused has been accused of committing;
- Whether there are reasonable grounds for believing the accused is guilty of the offence;
- The severity and degree of punishment that might follow;
- The accused’s character, means and standing;
- Whether the grant of bail is essential to ensure that the accused has an adequate opportunity to prepare his defence; and
- The length of the period of detention of the accused and the probability of any further period of delay.
At any stage of proceedings, the court can also still order the arrest and imprisonment of any person accused of committing a non-bailable offence who has been released on bail and/or personal bond.
What if there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed a non-bailable offence?
If at any stage of the investigation or proceedings, there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed a non-bailable offence, then the accused must be released.
What if there are grounds for further investigations on whether the accused has committed some other fine-only bailable offence?
If there are grounds for further investigations on whether the accused has committed some other bailable offence that is fine-only, then the accused must be released on either bail and/or his own personal bond, depending on what the police or court decides.
If the bailable offence in question is not a fine-only offence, the court can deny the accused’s release if it believes, on any ground stated in the Criminal Procedure Rules (as mentioned above), that the accused will jump bail if released.
How is the Bail Amount Decided?
The bail amount is fixed at the discretion of the police or court (depending on whether an accused is granted police bail or court bail). While bail should not be punitive, the amount of bail should be sufficient to secure the accused’s attendance in court.
The court will consider a variety of factors when deciding how much to fix the bail amount at. These factors include:
- The likelihood of the accused absconding if the amount is too low;
- Whether the accused presented himself at police station and cooperated with police;
- Whether the accused’s passport has been surrendered; and
- The nature and gravity of the offence.
How to Put Up the Bond Amount
For bail, the surety has to go to the Bail Centre at the State Courts Towers during its processing hours to put up the bond amount.
Once the bond has been executed (whether for bail or personal bond), the accused will be released from remand.
The type of property which can be used to put up the bond amount depends on whether the bail is monetary or non-monetary in nature, as stated in the bond conditions.
For non-monetary bail (which is usually the case where the bail amount does not exceed $15,000), sureties can pledge their personal property, such as jewellery, that has been fully paid for.
Sureties do not need to surrender the item(s), but will have to sign a declaration form stating that:
- They do own these items; and that
- The worth of the item(s) is sufficient to cover the bail amount.
For monetary bail (usually where the bail amount exceeds $15,000), sureties have to provide security for bail in the form of:
- Cash; or
- Cash equivalents such as fixed deposits.
Who Can be a Surety?
As mentioned earlier, a surety is a person who executes a bond for the released of the accused on bail. The surety is also known as the bailor.
You can be a surety if you are:
- A Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident aged 21 years and above;
- Not a bankrupt;
- Have no pending court cases;
- Prepared to accept the responsibilities of surety until the case is over; and
- Prepared to pledge security for the amount of bail as ordered by the court.
In addition, for bail cases, the surety for the accused must not be a co-accused in the same criminal matter.
What if the accused cannot find a surety?
If the accused cannot find a surety to put up the bail amount, he will be remanded.
What are the Responsibilities of Sureties?
Sureties are under many duties. They must:
- Ensure that the released person surrenders to custody, or makes himself available for investigations or attends court on the day and at the time and place appointed for him to do so;
- Keep in daily contact with the released person and lodge a police report within 24 hours of losing contact with him; and
- Ensure that the released person stays within Singapore unless he or she has been permitted to leave the country.
In addition, any agreement indemnifying any person of any of their liabilities as a surety to a bail bond is void. If any person knowingly enters such an agreement after 31 October 2018, they are guilty of an offence. To clarify, an offence is committed regardless of:
- Whether the agreement was made before or after the indemnified person became a surety;
- Whether or not the person to be indemnified became a surety; and
- Whether the agreement has compensation in money or money’s worth.
Those guilty of this offence are liable to be fined and/or jailed up to 3 years.
Can a surety discharge himself from his responsibilities?
It must be emphasised that taking on the role of a surety is a voluntary obligation. The surety can apply to the court to have the bond discharged at any time.
After receiving the application, the court may issue a warrant of arrest to direct that the accused attend court. Upon the accused’s appearance in court, the court must discharge the bond fully or so far as it relates to the surety.
What are the Restrictions Imposed on an Accused Released on Bail or Personal Bond?
When the accused is released on bail or personal bond, the accused must:
- Turn up on the date and at the time and place mentioned in the bond, and continue to do so until otherwise directed by the police or court; and
- Appear when called on in any court to answer the charge
Surrender of passport
In order to be released on bail or on personal bond, the accused will have to surrender his passport. If he fails to do so, he may be arrested and taken before a Magistrate judge.
If the accused needs to leave Singapore after having his passport impounded, he will have to apply for the return of his passport.
Persons who attempt to leave Singapore, despite knowing that they need to apply to have their passport returned first, may be guilty of an offence. They can be fined and/or jailed up to 3 years as a result.
How to apply for the return of the passport
The accused may apply to one of the following personnel to request for the return of his passport:
- A police officer of or above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police;
- The head of, or an authorised director of a law enforcement agency; or
- Any authorised persons of similar rank.
If this application is refused, the accused may apply to a District Judge for the return for his passport and state his reasons for the application.
The application is to be made in writing, stating details such as the:
- Accused’s particulars;
- Relevant mention/pre-trial conference/trial date(s);
- Court at which the matter is fixed;
- Trip destination;
- Duration of the trip; and
- Purpose of the trip.
The application is to be addressed and mailed to The Registrar, State Courts, 1 Havelock Square, Singapore 059724. Alternatively, it may be faxed to 64355122.
The application will then be referred to the relevant District Judge. If the judge agrees to hear the application, the accused will be informed to attend a court mention with his or her surety.
During the mention, the accused must give reasons for his application and inform the court of the intended destination(s) and the expected departure and return dates. The surety has to consent before the court considers the application. The prosecution will also be allowed to state its opinion on the application.
After hearing both sides, the court will either grant or refuse the permission to leave the country. If permission is granted, the permission must be evidenced by an endorsement on the bond stating for how long and the place(s) to which the permission applies.
The approval may also be subject to conditions regarding the return of the passport, and security for the applicant’s appearance as and when necessary.
Should the accused fail to comply with any of the conditions regarding the return of the passport, any security provided for its return may be forfeited. In addition, the accused can be arrested for failing to re-surrender his passport.
Other mandatory conditions of release
Unless the police or court specifies otherwise, when the accused is released on bail or personal bond, the accused will also have to:
- Not commit any offence while released; and
- Not interfere with any witness or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, whether in relation to himself or any other person.
The police or court may impose other conditions on top of these requirements as they deem necessary when releasing the accused on bail or personal bond.
An example of such an extra condition would be the requirement for the electronic monitoring of the accused’s whereabouts. The imposing of electronic monitoring is only compulsory if the prosecution applies to the police or the court to request for this.
Can I Appeal against the Bail Decision?
Bail decisions technically cannot be “appealed”.
However, the accused can still apply to the High Court by way of criminal motion to have the bail amount or conditions varied if:
- There has been a material change of circumstances; or
- New facts have come to light after the decision on bail was made.
For more information, read our article on criminal motions in Singapore.
What Happens If the Accused Jumps Bail?
Accused persons who jump bail can be arrested without a warrant.
The bond amount will also be forfeited to the extent that it relates to them. For example, accused persons who were released on personal bond will have their entire bond amount forfeited as it was solely put up by themselves.
In addition, it is an offence for accused persons to jump bail.
If an accused person released on bail or personal bond knowingly fails to comply with their duties (e.g. surrender to custody, be available for investigations, or attend court) without any reasonable excuse, they are guilty of an offence.
The accused will be presumed to have no reasonable excuse if:
- They left Singapore on or before the date of their failure to comply with their duties, without the permission of a police officer or the court, and has not returned to Singapore since; or
- Remains outside Singapore without the permission of a police officer or the court on the date of their failure to comply with their duties.
Those found guilty of this offence are liable to a fine and/or a jail term of up to 3 years.
Where the accused was released on bail: forfeiture of sureties’ bond amount
If the accused had been released on bail, the court may call up each surety bound by the bond to explain why the bond should not be forfeited, to the extent that it relates to that surety.
If the surety is unable to provide an adequate explanation and the court is of the view that the surety has breached his duties, then the court may forfeit that amount of bond and require the surety to pay the forfeited amount.
The court’s key consideration in deciding whether to forfeit the bond is whether the surety had exercised reasonable due diligence in the discharge of his duties as surety. If the court is of the opinion that the surety had not done so, the court then considers how much of the bond amount should be forfeited. However, the surety can apply to the court to have the decided amount reduced at any time.
The amount payable may be paid in instalments. If it is not paid in full, the court may order the seizure and sale of the surety’s property to pay off the debt.
If the amount forfeited cannot be repaid in full even after such seizure and sale, the surety can be jailed up to 12 months.
Where the accused was released on personal bond: forfeiture of personal bond
As mentioned earlier, the entire bond amount will be forfeited when an accused released on personal bond does not comply with his bond conditions.
The court may then summon the accused to attend court. It may also require the accused to pay all or part of the bond amount, or explain why the accused should not pay that sum.
If the accused is unable to provide an adequate explanation and does not pay the required amount in full, then the court may order the seizure and sale of the accused’s property to pay off the debt. However, the accused can apply to the court to have the decided amount reduced at any time.
If the amount forfeited cannot be repaid in full even after such seizure and sale, the accused can be jailed up to 12 months.
The procedure is essentially the same as that for the forfeiture of the bond amount for sureties, except the accused is the one being held accountable in this case.
If you need legal advice on getting released on bail in Singapore, please do not hesitate to consult our trusted criminal lawyers here.
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