“Right to Remain Silent” to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
The short answer to whether you have a “right to remain silent” is no. But the long answer is much more complicated, nuanced and depends very much on the circumstances of your case.
To answer this question properly, you should really have a lawyer with you in the interrogation room who can advise you on what is in your best interests by reference to the facts of your case.
However, as suspects are not permitted access to legal counsel before or during questioning by the police in Singapore, it is necessary for everyone to familiarise themselves with the law in this area, in case they are ever arrested and questioned by the police.
If this happens, you won’t be allowed to speak to a lawyer and the police won’t tell you your rights. So, it’s up to you to be prepared and armed with knowledge of your rights already, in case the day comes when you need to rely on them.
The “Right to Silence” in the United States
You have probably watched enough American crime dramas on television to be familiar with the lines:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you…”
This warning came about after the US Supreme Court decision in Miranda v Arizona, where the majority of the court found that suspects had these rights and a right to be informed of them prior to interrogation.
These rights arose out of the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination (i.e the act of implicating oneself in a crime, and exposing oneself to criminal prosecution).
If the suspect was not informed of these rights, any information he gave to the police could not be used as evidence against him.
The Obligation to Speak in Singapore
It is important to understand that all of this is completely irrelevant to being arrested and questioned by the police in Singapore. We do not enjoy due process protections in Singapore that are comparable with those in the US.
Singapore’s constitution contains no equivalent of the US’ Fifth Amendment. There is a statutory privilege against self-incrimination, which means in theory that you don’t have to say anything to a police officer that tends to suggest that you’re guilty of an offence.
However, this privilege is overlaid with a number of other statutory provisions designed to give police very broad investigative powers and to compel suspects and witnesses to give a great deal of information to the police.
As a result, the rules on what you do and do not have to say, are quite complicated.
Section 22(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) requires you to state truly what you know “of the facts and circumstances of the case”, except that you do not have to say anything that might expose you to a criminal charge.
So in effect, you have to tell the police everything you know about the case except anything that might suggest that you did it. If you did commit the offence, then that means there is a lot you don’t have to say. But figuring out which parts you have to tell and which parts you don’t can be difficult in practice – difficult enough that you should really have a lawyer advise you on it.
Not Sure What To Do Next?
Get a 20-minute phone call with a lawyer for only $59
However, your right to a lawyer in Singapore is generally understood not to kick in until after the police have finished interrogating you (as mentioned above).
Furthermore, the police are under no obligation to inform you of your privilege against self-incrimination and therefore they don’t. The fact that you weren’t informed of this privilege does not affect the admissibility of anything you say either (i.e. your statement can still be used in trial).
If, after being questioned, you are charged, you will be asked to give a second statement and this will most likely be your last chance to get facts that are helpful to your case recorded in a statement.
This is important because Sections 23 and 261 of the CPC essentially require you to get any facts, that you intend to rely on later to establish a defence of your innocence, on the record at the police station. You need to explicitly have these facts recorded in your statement, before you speak to a lawyer to figure out what defences might be available to you.
If you don’t, and only raise these facts later, the judge will be less likely to believe you and the court will be entitled to draw an adverse inference against you.
So, if you choose to remain silent or only raise certain facts that are helpful to your case after the investigative process, you could ultimately be convicted on this basis.
After you have given a statement to the police
Once you have given a statement to the police and signed it, there’s nothing you can do to take parts of it back. If you have left something important out, you can include it in a subsequent statement if you are invited back to give another statement.
Otherwise, your lawyer will just have to include your additional input in his representations to the Attorney General’s Chambers where it risks being viewed as a less credible afterthought.
It is best to get your statement right the first time because you may not get another chance to tell your side of the story the way you want it.
Exercising Your Limited Rights
Whatever you do, don’t lie to the police. Don’t make up something and put it in your statement.
Apart from being a separate offence, lying in your statement to the police is a great way to irreparably damage your credibility. If you lie about one thing, it is unlikely that anything else you say will be believed.
Therefore, if you are asked a question, where the true answer to that question is likely to result in a finding of guilt against you, don’t make something up. Instead, you can exercise your right against self-incrimination by stating something like:
“I respectfully decline to answer at this time, pending receipt of legal advice. In the meantime, all my rights are reserved.”
However, claiming to explicitly reserve your rights in this way is unlikely to overrule sections 23 and 261 of the CPC, (i.e. an adverse inference will still be drawn against you even if you mention any helpful facts later).
Nevertheless, if the alternative is giving an answer that tends to show you are guilty of a crime (bearing in mind that giving an untrue answer is not an option), then giving this kind of legalistic reply is probably the lesser of two evils.
Finally, study this short pamphlet from the Law Society of Singapore, which summarises your rights in the event you are investigated by the police. Memorise the important points and be prepared to put your best foot forward if you are ever the subject of a criminal investigation.
You can also read our other article on what to do if you are being investigated for a criminal offence in Singapore.
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Police Investigation Process in Singapore
- 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
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- 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
- 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
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 (In Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore