What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
If you have had any interaction with a law enforcement agency that suggests that you may be a suspect in a criminal investigation, you should read this article.
This is because if you have been questioned by police, whether at a police station or at the scene of an incident, if you have given a statement or if you have been arrested, you may well be a suspect and should take steps to protect yourself.
Often, the outcome of a case can be decided entirely based on what you say to the police before most people even consult a lawyer. Any damage done to your case at this stage is often impossible to undo later, no matter how good a lawyer you engage.
1. Prepare for the Police Interview
If you have been invited to a police station to give a statement but have not given one yet, you should first carefully study this pamphlet, which sets out your rights and obligations when being interviewed by police in Singapore.
You should also speak to a lawyer before you go for the interview to clarify your rights and obligations and seek advice on any defence that may be available to you. This is because failure to mention certain facts to establish a defence during the first interview with police can often make it extremely difficult to credibly raise those defences later in court after you have engaged a lawyer.
Most lawyers will be happy to speak to you briefly on the phone to talk you through what you can expect at the police station and will invite you to engage them later if you actually get charged. However, they cannot accompany you to the police station for your interview.
If you have given a statement to police, you should attempt to rewrite it as close to verbatim as you can, as soon as possible after giving it. This will be extremely useful to your lawyer in advising you.
2. Be Aware of Your Right Against Self-Incrimination
When speaking to the police, remember that you have a right against self-incrimination. This means that you don’t have to say anything that might suggest that you are guilty of any crime. However, you do have to tell the police any other facts that you might know relating to the alleged crime.
It is also extremely important to remember that it is a criminal offence to lie to the police when giving your statement.
Even more importantly, if you lie in your statement, even about something small, and the police find any evidence that suggest you are lying, any court that tries you thereafter is likely to conclude that you are a liar and that nothing you have to say can be believed. Your chances of being acquitted then are extremely slim.
3. Gather Evidence of Your Whereabouts During the Time of the Offence
If you are being accused of being at the scene of a crime when you were actually somewhere else, you should try to:
- Obtain CCTV footage that would exonerate you from the criminal behaviour you have been accused of. We have a guide on the steps for obtaining such footage and you should do so as soon as possible. Don’t assume the police will do this. It can be helpful to engage a lawyer for this purpose.
- Visit the scene of the alleged crime at the earliest opportunity and take photographs of the scene from a number of different angles. Be sure to also take photographs of any CCTV cameras in the area. These can be provided to your lawyer later.
- Inform your lawyer if you know of someone who may have witnessed what happened and who may be able offer witness testimony that is likely to exonerate you. You should be extremely cautious about approaching potential witnesses yourself as you could face charges for attempting to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence. However, if you have their contact details you should provide these to a lawyer who can arrange for someone unconnected with the case to get in touch with them and record a statutory declaration from them if they are willing to provide it. These witnesses can later be called to testify in your favour at any trial that may happen subsequently, and should they change their story for any reason, their statutory declaration can then be admitted as evidence to impeach their testimony.
Refer to our other article for more information on how to prove that you were (or were not) at the crime scene when the offence occurred.
4. Don’t Communicate With the Alleged Victim
Avoid communicating with any alleged victim of any offence that you are being accused of. This can often make a bad situation worse by making it look like you’re trying to put pressure on the alleged victim to change his/her story.
While it is true that there’s a limited amount that a criminal defence lawyer can do for you until you have been charged, you should still speak to one long before any investigation reaches that stage.
The advice that a criminal defence lawyer can give you on protecting your rights at the earliest stages of an investigation is invaluable and can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case.
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