Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do

Last updated on February 1, 2023

police officer pointing palm to stop

Ever been on a night out past 10pm? If you have, chances are that you probably have seen roadblocks being set up and vehicle spot-checks being conducted by police officers. Maybe you have even seen police officers stopping people during the day for spot-checks. Don’t be alarmed by all of the above – this is one of the many ways in which police officers conduct routine checks on the civilian population primarily to crack down on drunk driving, drug use, and suspicious people, as a matter of routine procedure. Police officers also conduct security screenings to guard against terrorism.

This article seeks to delve deeper into the common types of contact members of the public might have with the police in Singapore, what to expect, and what one should do when faced with such situations. It will also discuss how can one identify a legitimate police officer (see below).

What are Some Examples of Police Encounters in Singapore?

Here are two common scenarios in which members of the public might encounter police officers:

  1. Security screenings and spot-checks at MRT stations by patrolling police officers
  2. Roadblocks set up by police officers

Security screenings and spot-checks at MRT stations

One of the most common instances of police encounters happens in broad daylight. For example, it is common to see police officers conducting security screenings at the gantries of MRT stations. These are reflective of the tightening of security measures surrounding inland locations which could be “attractive terrorist targets”.

The primary aim of security screenings is to enable police officers to search for any weapons or dangerous items you may potentially be carrying. That being said, these security screenings are performed minimally. For instance, at Kembangan MRT station, only 5 commuters were screened throughout a 20-minute window out of the countless commuters that passed through the station gantries.

Should you be approached for such a security screening, here is what to expect: 

  • You may be asked to place your belongings through a metal detector; and
  • You may be asked to step through an X-ray detector.

But that’s not all. Past the security screenings at the station gantries, one can also observe armed uniformed officers pacing about the station, as well as in train carriages. These officers are from the Public Transport Security Command (TransCom) – a specialised police unit of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) – and have been trained to spot suspicious people and behaviour. They conduct high-visibility patrols at bus interchanges and MRT stations and engage in spot-checks when necessary.

Transcom Officers do not excessively or arbitrarily conduct spot-checks. Rather, spot-checks are conducted on passengers who appear to be behaving in a suspicious manner to ensure the safety of public transport networks for all commuters. It is therefore very uncommon for a TransCom officer to conduct a spot-check on the average everyday commuter.

Nevertheless, in the event that a TransCom officer conducts a routine spot-check on you, here’s what you may potentially face:

  • TransCom officers may ask for a form of your identification (e.g. your identity card);
  • TransCom officers may enquire about your purpose for being at the location you are at, or where you intend to go; and/or
  • Further and beyond that, TransCom officers may request to search your belongings or conduct a body search if they have reason to believe you are behaving in a suspicious manner. 

It is advisable to comply with the police officers’ demands, as failure to do so may constitute an offence, and you may be liable on conviction to a fine up to $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term up to 12 months, or to both. 

Should you fail the spot-check, you may be subject to detainment and potential prosecution. This may occur if the police officers have found contraband in your possession.

Roadblocks at night

Roadblocks are another common way in which you may encounter a police spot-check. Police officers are statutorily empowered to erect or place barriers on any public place (including roads and streets) and to prevent any vehicle from crossing said barriers. 

Police officers typically set up roadblocks to catch drunk drivers and cars with illegal modifications. Most often, they do so late at night to ensure that you are not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The likelihood of roadblocks occurring is significantly higher between 10pm to 6am.

During a roadblock, police officers are statutorily empowered to:

  • Instruct drivers to proceed towards the barrier and stop their vehicles at or near the barrier;
  • Instruct drivers to remain in the vehicle and keep the vehicle stationary until permitted by a police officer to proceed;
  • Instruct pedestrians to proceed towards the barrier and stop at or near the barrier;
  • Instruct pedestrians to remain there until permitted by a police officer to continue. 

Notably, if a police officer puts up any notice or sign notifying drivers of the barrier ahead, the Police Act equates this notice or sign to an order for drivers to proceed to the barrier and stop the vehicle at or near the barrier. Thereafter, drivers are to remain in the vehicle and keep it stationary until police permission to proceed has been given. This applies to drivers who are travelling in the direction of the barrier and who ought reasonably to have seen the notice or sign. 

Police officers may also engage in a conversation with you, usually to enquire where you are going and to check for tell-tale signs of alcohol consumption (e.g. a strong alcohol smell, red eyes). If you are found to be suspicious, the police will conduct a more thorough check. This includes a vehicle search for any illegal substances and a breathalyser test, in which the police will measure your blood alcohol level. If you fail the breathalyser test, you will be arrested for drink-driving.

Likewise, should you fail to comply with any of the above, it would constitute an offence, and the police officer will be empowered by law to arrest you without a warrant. You will be liable to a fine, an imprisonment term, or both. For drivers, you will be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 7 years. For pedestrians, you will be fined up to  $2,500 and/or imprisoned for up to 3 months. 

Identifying a Legitimate Police Officer

That being said, it is important that you know who has the authority to conduct spot-checks on you, and who does not.

All Singapore police officers are issued with a Singapore Police Force Warrant Card. This serves as proof or verification of their identity as a police officer even if they are in plain clothes. A genuine warrant card will have identification features such as the police crest and the holographic word “POLICE” below the photo of the police officer. An example of such a card can be found here. 

In summary, though there are many different varieties of situations in which you may encounter police officers, the ordinary citizen will primarily encounter them in MRT stations and while on the roads. It is important to remember that these encounters are not targeted or malevolently motivated. Rather, it is part of police officers’ duty to perform such checks and screenings. However, it is equally vital that you are able to identify genuine police officers to avoid falling prey to any potential scams.

If you are currently under investigation by police officers following such encounters, or you have committed an offence throughout such encounters (e.g., failing to stop at a roadblock), it is advisable to reach out to a criminal lawyer to discuss your next steps.

You may get in touch with experienced 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
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  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
Cybercrime
  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