Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore: What’s the Difference?

Last updated on November 21, 2010

Sections 299 and 300 of the Penal Code govern the offences of culpable homicide and murder respectively.

Section 300 states that you commit murder, if you:

  1. Cause the death with the intention of causing the death.
  2. Cause the death with the intention of causing bodily injury that you know is likely to kill the person
  3. Cause the death with the intention of causing bodily injury, and that bodily injury is objectively determined to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
  4. Cause the death knowing that what you are doing is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death.

If any of the above limbs are fulfilled, then murder has been committed, except where one of these special defences also apply:

  1. When there was provocation
  2. When offender had the right of private defence, but exceeded it
  3. When offender was exceeding the power of a public servant in good faith
  4. When the act was committed as a result of a sudden fight
  5. When the victim is above 18 and had consented to being killed
  6. When it is a case of a mother killing a child of less than 12 months old
  7. When there is a case for diminished responsibility (because of the accused’s mental faculties were substantially impaired)

If the situation falls into one of the categories mentioned above, the offender would not be guilty of murder but would be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead.

While the death penalty used to be mandatory for accused persons found guilty of murder, the death penalty is now discretionary except for the first limb of section 300 of the Penal Code with effect from 1 January 2013.

In other words, as long as you had not caused the death of the victim with the exact intention of doing so (as is usually the case for murders in cold blood), and are found guilty for murder on a different limb (e.g. intending to cause a bodily injury which was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death), the court can either still sentence you to death, or choose to sentence you to life imprisonment and caning instead.

On the other hand, if you are not found guilty of murder, you may be found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead. The culpable homicide provisions are worded very similarly to those governing murder, seeing how murder is a subset of culpable homicide.

If found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the punishment differs depending on the mental state of the accused at the time of the killing (e.g. whether you had intended to cause death, or whether you had carried out the act of killing with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death, though not actually intending for death to happen). See section 304 of the Penal Code for more information.

As a side note, it has to be noted that unlike the law in United States, Singapore does not classify murder in terms of degrees (e.g. first or second degree murder). It also does not have the offence of manslaughter, either voluntary or involuntary.

These classifications in the United States are somewhat similar to how the Singapore Penal Code contains four limbs of murder within the same provision, where these provide for the states of mind which the accused could possibly have been under while committing the act of killing.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Police Investigation Process in Singapore
  2. When Can the Police Arrest Someone?: Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  3. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  4. Can a Civilian Arrest a Criminal in Singapore?
  5. Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence in Singapore?
  6. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  7. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  8. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  9. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  10. Do You Have a "Right to Remain Silent" to the Police in Singapore?
  11. Extradition: What if You Flee after Committing Crime in Singapore?
  12. Warrant of Arrest: What to Do If It is Issued Against You in Singapore
  13. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  2. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  3. What is Private Prosecution?
  4. Compounding or Composition of Offences in Singapore
  5. Criminal Records in Singapore
  6. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
Criminal Proceedings
  1. Criminal Compensation in Singapore
  2. Exercising Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  3. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  4. Mitigation Plea
  5. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  6. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  7. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  8. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  9. Reformative Training in Singapore: When will it be Ordered?
  10. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  11. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore and When Will They be Ordered?
  12. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  13. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  14. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  15. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  16. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  17. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
  18. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  19. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
Sexual Offences
  1. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  2. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  3. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  4. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  5. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  6. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  7. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
  2. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  4. When Can You Legally Gamble (In Public or Online) in Singapore?
  5. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  6. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  7. Legal Drinking Age in Singapore and Other Drinking-Related Laws
  8. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age and Common Smoking Offences
  9. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
  1. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  2. What to Do If Someone Impersonates Me Online
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: Elements and Penalties
  2. Dishonest assistance and knowing receipt - The case of David Rasif
  3. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  4. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore: What's the Difference?
  2. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  3. Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
  4. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore
  5. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  6. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
  7. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  8. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  9. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  10. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
  11. Complete Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  12. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  13. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  14. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  15. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  16. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  17. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  18. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
  19. Littering and Killer Litter Offences: Here are the Penalties in Singapore
  20. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
  21. Animal Cruelty in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report
  22. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  23. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
  24. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?