Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
If you are suspected or accused of having committed a criminal offence, the police may require that you surrender your passport. Read on to find out the police powers and your rights under such circumstances.
1. When May You be Required to Surrender Your Passport to the Police?
There are 2 situations in which you may be required to surrender your passport to the police.
(1) The police have reason to believe that you have committed an offence
The police have a general power to require you to surrender your passport if they have reasonable grounds for believing that you have committed any offence. However, such power can only be exercised:
- By a police officer of or above the rank of sergeant; and
- With the written consent of a police officer of or above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, who has been authorised by the Commissioner of Police to give such consent.
This power can also be exercised by officers of other law enforcement agencies (e.g. Central Narcotics Bureau, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and Singapore Customs), but only with the written consent of the head of the agency.
If you refuse to surrender your passport on request by a police officer, you may be arrested and brought before a Magistrate. If you are unable to show good reasons for not surrendering your passport, the Magistrate can put you in jail until you surrender your passport.
(2) You are applying to be released on bail
If you have been charged with an offence and wish to be released on bail, the court or the prosecuting agency may require that you surrender your passport as a condition of your bail. If so, you will not be able to be released on bail if you refuse to surrender your passport.
2. How Long Can the Police Hold on to Your Passport?
If the surrender of your passport is a condition for your bail, you may only get your passport back after the conclusion of your case.
If you had to surrender your passport because the police believe you have committed an offence, the police may hold onto your passport until the end of police investigations. However, if you urgently require your passport, you may apply for its return.
3. What If You Need Your Passport Back?
Where you have been released on bail
If you need to leave Singapore while out on bail, you may apply to court to have your passport returned.
Your bailor must be present when you make the application to leave Singapore. Valid reasons to leave Singapore may include serious illness of family members overseas and a planned family holiday. However, the court may increase the bail amount if it allows your application to leave Singapore while out on bail.
Where the police have reasonable grounds for believing you have committed an offence
If your passport has been surrendered to a police officer because the police have reasonable grounds for believing you have committed an offence, you may apply to that police officer or the Commissioner of Police for the return of your passport. If the police refuse your application, you may apply to the District Court to have your passport returned.
If the court grants the return of your passport, the court may subject the return of your passport to any conditions as it deems appropriate. Such conditions can relate to the subsequent re-surrender of your passport and the provision of security to ensure your attendance in court on a certain date.
If the court grants the return on the condition that you subsequently re-surrender your passport, failure to do so may cause you to be arrested and dealt with in the same way as a person who refuses to surrender his passport upon a police officer’s request. Any security you provided for the return of your passport may also be forfeited.
If a police officer requests you to surrender your passport, you may seek the advice of a criminal lawyer to learn more about your rights and to arrange for its return, if needed.
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