Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know

Last updated on September 11, 2020

accused and police officer in interrogation room

What is Police Custody?

Police custody is the detention of an accused person by the Singapore police after he has been arrested for allegedly committing an offence.

A person is generally in police custody from the point that he is arrested until the point that he is released by the police, whether on bail or because the police have not established that he has committed an offence.

You may also hear the term “remand” being used when talking about police custody. “Remand” is often used as another word for police custody. A person who is “remanded”, “remanded in custody”, or “on remand”, can also be said to be held in police custody.

In addition to its general meaning, “remand” can also specifically refer to 2 situations in the later stages of police custody:

  1. When the accused is held in police custody for the purpose of further investigations; or
  2. When bail is not offered, or not taken up, and the accused continues to be in police custody.

This article will discuss:

Where Might One be Held in Custody? 

If you are arrested, the police will usually bring you to a police station or detention centre. While investigations are ongoing, you may be held in a jail cell in the police station. This is unless you are a juvenile (under the age of 16), or you are suffering from a mental disorder.

Juveniles will normally be held in a remand home (e.g., the Singapore Boys’ Home or Singapore Girls’ Home). However, a juvenile may instead be held in a jail cell if:

  • It is impractical to hold him in a remand home;
  • The juvenile is so unruly that he cannot be safely remanded in a remand home; or
  • He has a physical or mental condition that makes it inadvisable to remand him at a remand home because of his physical or mental condition.

As for mentally-ill persons in custody, the police must refer them to a medical officer or doctor without delay. If the medical practitioner is of the opinion that the person should be treated as an inpatient, the mentally disordered person may be detained at a psychiatric institution (such as the Institute of Mental Health) for further evaluation and treatment.

What Happens During Custody?

While you are in custody, police investigations will take place. You will be required to surrender whatever personal belongings you have with you. The police will retain any items relevant to the investigation until the case is concluded.

As part of the investigations, the Investigation Officer (IO) will interview you for the facts and circumstances of the case in a language that you understand. Additionally, you may be brought to places, such as the scene of the crime, to recover evidence that may be relevant to the investigation.

You may also be asked to undergo a polygraph examination (a lie detector test) or participate in an identification parade (a procedure where victims or eyewitnesses are asked to identify the person whom they think has committed the offence from a group of people).

The police may also record statements from you. When giving statements, you must state the truth about the facts of the case, but you need not mention things that might expose you to a criminal charge. Any statement taken will be recorded in writing. You will have to read the recorded statement, or have it read back to you, and then sign it.

If the police decide to charge you with an offence, the charge will be officially set out and explained to you. Your response (or lack thereof) to the charge will then be recorded in a cautioned statement. A copy of the cautioned statement must then be given to you.

Juveniles and persons with mental disabilities can make use of Appropriate Adult Schemes for support during police interviews or the taking of statements. “Appropriate adults” are neutral parties who facilitate communication between the accused and the IO, and help the accused to understand the queries and communicate more effectively. They also provide emotional assistance to the accused.

The Appropriate Adult for Persons with Mental Disability (AAPMD) Scheme provides assistance to persons with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder or mental health issues, while the Appropriate Adult Scheme for Young Suspects assists juveniles under 16 years old.

Read our other article for further information on what to do if you are being investigated for a criminal offence.

What are My Rights While in Custody? 

It is important to know your rights while in custody. Among other things, you may:

  • Request to make a call to your family or a lawyer
  • Request visits by your family or a lawyer
  • Request to consult with a lawyer of your choice

Such requests will usually be granted within a reasonable time of the arrest. However, they may be refused if they interfere with investigations.

If possible, you should try to speak with a criminal lawyer as early as you can. This will allow you to clarify your rights and obligations and seek advice on any defences which may be available to you.

Failing to mention certain facts during the first interview with police can make it difficult to credibly raise defences based on those facts later in court, even after you have engaged a lawyer.

The police also have to observe certain regulations while you are in custody. For example, your cell should be clean, and you should be provided food of basic nutritional value.

If you appear to be suffering from any illness or mental disorder, the police must refer you to a medical officer or doctor without delay. Where possible, drunk, disorderly, or mentally disordered persons should also be separately confined from other persons in custody.

If you are female or a juvenile, additional rules will apply. Females should be kept separate from males, and in a cell with reasonable privacy, while juveniles should be kept separate from adult offenders.

How Long Will I be Held in Custody For?

The police normally cannot hold you for more than 48 hours from the time of your arrest without either bringing you to court or releasing you.

At the end of the investigation or the 48-hour detention period (whichever is earlier), if the police have not established that you have committed an offence, you will be released unconditionally. But if the investigations reveal that you have or may have committed an offence, the police may either bring you to court or release you on bail pending further investigations.

If you are brought to court, the police may apply to keep you in custody for more than 48 hours, which is then known as remand. The police must give the court reasons why they need to remand you. You may object to this request and ask the court to explain why you need to be remanded. Ultimately, the court has the final say on whether you will be remanded.

If you have been released on bail, you must still turn up at the police station to assist in investigations, or in court, when required to do so. Otherwise, you may be arrested.

Being held in police custody can be a distressing experience. We hope that this article has helped you to better understand what you can expect in such a situation.

If you have been taken into police custody or charged with an offence in Singapore, it is important to know what your rights and obligations are. A criminal lawyer can advise you on this and provide the necessary assistance to help achieve the most favourable outcome for your criminal case.

You can get in touch with our trusted criminal lawyers here.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
  2. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  3. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  4. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  5. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  6. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  7. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  8. Seized Assets in Money Laundering Investigations: What Happens To Them?
  9. Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
  10. Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
  11. What is the Appropriate Adult Scheme in Singapore?
  12. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  13. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  14. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  15. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  16. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  17. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  18. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  19. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  20. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  21. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  22. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  23. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  24. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  25. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  2. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  3. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  4. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  5. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  6. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  7. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  8. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  9. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  10. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  11. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  12. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  13. Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
  14. Giving False vs. Wrong Evidence: What’s the Difference?
  15. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  16. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  17. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  18. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  19. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  20. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  5. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  6. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  7. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  8. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  9. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  10. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  11. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  12. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  13. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  14. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  15. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  4. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  6. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  8. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  9. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  10. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  11. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. What is a Protected Area and Place in Singapore?
  2. Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
  3. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  4. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  5. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  6. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  7. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  8. Penalties for Littering Offences in Singapore
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
  3. What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?
  4. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  5. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  6. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  7. Laws to Tackle High-Rise Littering in Singapore
  8. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  9. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  10. Is Dining & Dashing Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  12. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  13. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  14. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  15. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  16. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore