Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
It is not as unusual as many people think to be falsely accused of a crime in Singapore.
In some cases, someone may be charged with multiple charges, some of which are true and some of which are false. In other cases, someone may be charged with an offence for their involvement in an incident, but their actions do not constitute the elements of the offence with which they have been charged.
Sometimes, someone is charged with an offence based on circumstantial evidence that points to them, or based on a false allegation made by a complainant with a grudge. It is even possible for someone to be falsely charged with an offence due to a case of mistaken identity. So if you find yourself being falsely accused of a crime in Singapore, what should you do? This article will cover:
What to Do If You’ve Been Falsely Charged with a Crime
Deny any untrue allegations and reserve your rights
When you are charged, you will be interrogated. You will be asked to sign a statement that has been prepared by a police officer based on the answers you have given under interrogation. You may also be asked to write out a short statement. If you are innocent, you should consistently deny any untrue allegations, and briefly state any fact that supports your innocence, during the interrogation.
When you are presented with the statement to sign, you should ensure that it says exactly what you want it to say before you sign it.
Anything in there can and will be used against you later, and you can insist that the police officer goes back and types it up again and again until it says exactly what you want to be said in court later. The police officer may not refuse.
Typing out your statement properly is his/her job. However, ensuring that he/she has done so accurately is your responsibility. Any errors cannot be corrected later and your signature at the end of the statement will be used to prove that you accepted the accuracy of everything in the statement. Hence, do not sign the statement until you are 100% satisfied that its contents do not support any of the allegations against you, and that everything in there is 100% accurate.
You may also be asked to handwrite a shorter statement yourself on a page that sets out your charge and cautions you on the consequences of writing a statement below. During this process, the police officer may suggest to you that you should write that you are very sorry and will not re-offend, and to ask the judge for leniency. Do not do this if you are innocent as it could amount to admitting that you are guilty of the offence.
Instead, you should simply deny committing the offence with which you are charged and reserve your rights until you have obtained legal advice. This is the most critical stage of your prosecution where you can do the most damage to your own defence by over-explaining or guessing facts that you cannot really remember. If you contradict yourself in your statement, this will make it much more difficult for a lawyer to help exonerate you later on.
Engage a criminal lawyer
The first thing you should do when you get out of the police station is to immediately write down or dictate:
- Everything that you can remember putting into both statements
- The names and ranks of the police officers who dealt with you
Bring this information to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Having a lawyer help you to navigate the criminal procedure that follows will reduce your stress over the coming months. It also gives your case far more credibility in court than if you were to try to represent yourself from the dock, where you may not be taken seriously and may also be spoken to harshly by the judge.
Some police officers may suggest to you that engaging a criminal lawyer is unhelpful or indicates guilt. This is not true. You should always engage a criminal lawyer if you have been charged with an offence in Singapore.
Gather evidence and work with your lawyer to prove your innocence
You should try to gather any evidence that you can to prove your innocence. For example:
- Review your calendar, your phone calls and text messages from the relevant day
- Try to remember the people you met and spoke with that day
- Review your Google location history
Try to provide your lawyer with a list of people who may be able to support various aspects of your version of events, or who can contradict the allegations against you. This will help your lawyer arrange for statements to be taken from these individuals.
Always check with your lawyer before approaching these people yourself. Never approach or communicate with the complainant (your accuser) in your case, if any. In addition, do not publish anything online about your case, or the complainant, without running it past your lawyer first to understand how it may impact your defence.
Dealing With Related Consequences of Being Accused of an Offence
One of the most distressing aspects of being charged with an offence is that you may be fired from your job. Some of your friends, colleagues and acquaintances may also no longer wish to be associated with you. There is not much you can do about this other than to assure your loved ones, employer and friends that you are innocent, have engaged a lawyer and will be contesting the charges against you in court.
If you are a foreigner, you can expect to be most likely deported at the conclusion of your case, even if you are acquitted of all charges. Singapore’s immigration system is separate from its criminal justice system and does not incorporate formal appeal processes. The Immigration and Customs Authority often deports foreigners whose continued presence it deems, in its ultimate discretion, to be “undesirable”, and this often includes anyone who has been charged with an offence, whether or not they are actually found guilty.
Hence, you should plan accordingly. You should also do everything that you can to secure a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident bailor to post bail for you. This is so that you are not held in remand while waiting for trial. Your lawyer can advise you on this process.
Should I Plead Guilty Even If I am Innocent?
There are some cases in which you should consider pleading guilty even when you are innocent. This is a decision for you alone to make with the advice of your lawyer. However, if there is an offer on the table of a very lenient sentence in return for a guilty plea, in a case where you could otherwise be facing a very harsh sentence, this is something to which you should give serious thought.
Trials are very unpredictable and you should not assume that merely because you are innocent, you will be acquitted. Innocent people are sometimes convicted on little more than the bare allegation of a complainant.
For example, in the absence of any external evidence or independent eye-witness testimony, it is not unusual for convictions to be secured based solely on the testimony of the complainant, as well as the testimony of the arresting officer and investigating officer who were not present at the time of the alleged incident. You need to prepare yourself for that possibility and for the consequences of losing at trial.
When deciding whether to plead guilty, you also need to understand and consider the long-term consequences of having a criminal record, even if the sentence is a relatively lenient one. This requires a serious in-depth discussion with your lawyer so that you can understand the potential risks and benefits of each course of action.
What Can I Do If the Complainant is Proven to Have Made False Allegations Against Me?
If the complainant is shown to have made false allegations against you, in theory he/she can be charged with making a false statement to a public servant and/or making a false declaration under oath. In practice, however, such false statements are not frequently prosecuted. That said, you can certainly file a police report against the complainant and indicate a desire for the offence to be prosecuted.
If the government declines to prosecute, you also have the option of pursuing a prosecution of the complainant yourself by commencing a Magistrate’s Complaint. Your lawyer can advise you on the procedure for doing so.
In addition to this or in the alternative, you can also sue the complainant to obtain damages. The most common options in this scenario would be a defamation claim under the Defamation Act or a harassment claim under the Protection from Harassment Act.
There are few other life events that can so thoroughly disrupt your life, and cause such deep and prolonged distress, as being falsely accused of a crime. The one thing that can most help to diminish that distress to some degree is engaging a criminal lawyer in Singapore to advise and represent you. You cannot put a price on the peace of mind and practical assistance that high-quality legal representation can provide at such a difficult time in your life.
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