Criminal Records in Singapore
When a person commits a crime, we all know that apart from serving a sentence of imprisonment, paying a fine or other punishment, the person will also be subject to a criminal record. The consequences of this can be crushing, as many jobs require applicants to declare whether they have a criminal record, and also subject applicants to background checks.
It is clear to all that persons convicted of major crimes will be subject to criminal records. What about for minor infringements, like traffic offences and fines for littering? Will records be “erased” after some time?
In this article, we tell you all you need to know about criminal records, including for what crimes you would get a criminal record, under what conditions would such a record become spent, the consequences of a spent record, and how you can check your own record.
Legal Background for Criminal Records
The law on criminal records is found in the Registration of Criminals Act (RCA).
The practice of keeping a register of criminals started way back during colonial rule, where the Registration of Criminals Ordinance was still in place. This is to allow authorities to more easily track activities of known criminals.
Today, having a criminal records system also facilitates background checks for security clearance and suitability for employment to certain positions, amongst other things.
When Do You Get a Criminal Record?
A person will be recorded on the register of criminals if he is:
- Convicted of a registrable crime in Singapore;
- Convicted of offences committed within and also registrable under the law of Malaysia;
- Ordered to be banished, expelled or deported from Singapore or Malaysia; or
- Convicted, or ordered to be banished, expelled or deported from any place outside of Singapore and Malaysia, and such particulars are provided by the relevant officers or authorities of such place.
What is a registrable crime?
Registrable crimes are crimes which are listed in the First and Second Schedules of the RCA.
This includes not just Penal Code offences, but also crimes found in other pieces of legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act and Prevention of Corruption Act.
Certain minor offences are not subject to registration under the RCA. This means that even if you were caught for those offences, you will not have a criminal record. Such non-registrable offences include almost all traffic offences under the Road Traffic Act, with the exception of more serious ones like causing death or grievous hurt by reckless or dangerous driving.
Discretion to not register certain offenders of registrable crimes
The Commissioner of Police has the discretion to not register certain offenders who have committed registrable crimes. These offenders must fulfil the following criteria:
- Convicted of an offence in the Second Schedule of the RCA;
- Sentenced to a fine of up to $1,000, instead of any jail term (except where the jail term is meted out in default of payment of a fine); and
- No previous criminal record
If the Commissioner of Police decides not to register the offender, the Registrar will retain the offender’s particulars for 6 months from the date of receiving them. Then if the Commissioner of Police does not give any direction to register the offender during these 6 months, the Registrar will destroy the offender’s particulars.
What is Recorded in the Register?
What particulars are recorded in the Register? Of course, the person’s name, crime which he was convicted of and the sentence would be recorded.
If you have watched police drama serials or movies, you would probably also have correctly guessed that the fingerprints and photograph of the person convicted would be recorded.
Body samples, such as samples of blood, hair and swabs taken from a person’s mouth, may be taken in addition to the above-mentioned fingerprints and photographs. Information of the body samples taken are kept by the Registrar in a DNA database.
Can a Criminal Record be Removed?
Once a record is entered in the Register of Criminals, it will never be fully removed or erased until the person dies or reaches 100 years old. Instead, criminal records for certain more minor crimes may become spent on the expiration of a crime-free period of 5 consecutive years from:
- The date that the sentence was passed (if the offender was not sentenced to imprisonment); or
- The date of the offender’s release from prison (if the offender was imprisoned).
However, certain persons are disqualified from having their criminal records becoming spent. This includes the following situations:
- The conviction was for an offence listed in the Third Schedule of the RCA, which contains generally serious offences such as rape, kidnapping and gang robbery;
- The sentence for that conviction included imprisonment longer than 3 months or a fine of more than $2,000;
- The person has records of more than one conviction on the register;
- The person already has a previous spent record on the register.
Persons who are disqualified from having their criminal records becoming spent may apply to the Commissioner of Police to have their record spent. The Commissioner will decide based on the circumstances of each case.
What Does It Mean for a Criminal Record to be Spent?
Once a person’s criminal record is spent, he is deemed to not have such a record. This means that in most situations, he can lawfully say that he has no criminal record.
The most common situation when you will be asked about your criminal record will be when you apply for a new job. Often, you will have to declare if you have a criminal record, or whether you have ever been convicted in a court of law. A person with a spent record can legally declare that he has no criminal record. However, he must still answer “yes” if he is asked whether he has ever been convicted in a court of law.
Do note that when a person’s criminal record is considered spent, it does not mean that it is removed or erased from the Register. Particulars of the person’s conviction, as well as the person’s fingerprints, photographs, DNA information and any other particulars that were recorded, remain on the Register.
How Can a Person with a Criminal Record Get His Record Spent?
A criminal record will be spent automatically upon fulfilment of the 5-year crime-free period and other conditions as stated above. No action or application needs to be taken by the person to have his record spent.
How Do You Check If You Have a Criminal Record?
If you wish to check the spent status of your criminal record, you may do so by logging in with your SingPass on the Singapore Police Force’s E-Services Portal > Enquiry > Police Matters > Status of Check Rendered Spent. You will then be able to check if your criminal record is eligible to be spent.
- Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
- Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
- What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
- Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
- Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
- Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
- Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
- Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
- Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
- The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
- How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
- TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
- Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
- When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
- Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
- Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
- Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
- Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- Criminal Records in Singapore
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
- How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
- Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
- Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
- Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
- Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
- Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
- Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
- Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
- Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
- Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
- How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
- Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
- What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
- What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
- Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
- Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
- Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
- Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
- Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
- Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
- What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
- Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
- Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
- All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
- Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
- 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
- Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
- Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
- Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
- Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
- Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
- Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
- Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
- Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore