TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
As you frequent the local news, you may read certain reports about persons being sentenced after being found guilty of offences. If you scrutinise these reports a bit more closely, some of them may mention that additional charges have been “taken into consideration” for the purpose of sentencing.
Despite the frequent usage of such a term, there can be confusion as to what “taken into consideration”, or “TIC”, actually means. The aim of this article is to provide readers a clear guidance on what it means to have charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing in Singapore. It will explain:
What Does It Mean For Charges to be Taken Into Consideration in Singapore?
When a charge is taken into consideration in Singapore, it means that the accused admits to committing the offence stated in the charge without being legally convicted of it.
The court will not sentence the offender for charges that have been taken into consideration. However, when deciding what sentence it should impose for the other charges that the offender has been convicted of, the court will give weight to the fact that the offender had been charged with and has admitted to the charges taken into consideration.
Thus, the effect of taking charges into consideration would (usually) be to enhance the sentence that is meted out to the offender for the charge(s) that he has been convicted of.
Charges can be taken into consideration only when the accused has been charged with multiple offences. You should also note that both the accused and the prosecution need to consent to having a charge taken into consideration.
Illustration of having charges taken into consideration
Consider a scenario where a person is attempting to burgle a house in the middle of the night. As he completes the burglary and attempts to get away, an inhabitant awakes and confronts the burglar. In a panic, the burglar assaults the inhabitant and runs away. In this scenario, the burglar has committed three distinct offences:
- Theft in a dwelling-house
- Voluntarily causing hurt
After the police have apprehended the accused, the prosecutor will have the choice to charge him with:
- All three offences; or
- Only one offence (for e.g. theft in dwelling) and proceed to have the other two charges taken into consideration.
Assume that the following terms of imprisonment will be ordinarily meted out for the following offences if the accused were to be charged for each offence individually:
- Housebreaking – 2 years;
- Theft in dwelling – 4 years; and
- Voluntarily causing hurt – 1 year
If the prosecution proceeds with all 3 charges, and the accused is convicted of all of them, the court will come up with a sentence for each of the charges, and then formulate an overall sentence. Thus in this example, the offender may be sentenced to a total of 2 + 4 + 1 = 7 years’ imprisonment.
Conversely, if the prosecution proceeds with only the charge of theft in dwelling, and both the accused and prosecution consent to other two charges being taken into consideration, then the court will decide what sentence it should impose for only the theft in dwelling charge.
However, the court can choose to enhance the sentence that it imposes on the accused for the theft in dwelling charge when taking the 2 other charges into consideration.
If so, the court may end up sentencing the offender to a term of, say, 5 years (instead of the usual 4 years) for the theft in dwelling charge, with the other 2 charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.
So as compared to the scenario where the accused is tried for and convicted of all 3 charges, you can see that he receives a lower sentence when he agrees to have charges taken into account for sentencing purposes.
There are 3 main consequences that you can observe when a charge is taken into consideration:
- Even though the accused admits to having committed the offence, he is not legally convicted of it.
- The effect of taking the outstanding charges into consideration is to enhance the sentence for the charges that have been proceeded with against the accused, and that he is convicted of.
- Even if the sentence is enhanced, it will still be less severe than if the accused had been charged with and separately convicted of all offences that have been proceeded with against him.
How Does the Prosecution Decide Which Charges Will and Will Not be Taken Into Consideration?
Normally, the prosecution’s practice would be to proceed with the most serious charge, and have the other charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.
Consider the above-mentioned example once again. You can observe that the offence of theft in dwelling could be considered to be the most serious offence since it carries the longest-possible imprisonment sentence. Accordingly, the prosecutor may choose to secure a legal conviction against the offender for the theft in dwelling charge, and have the other two charges (i.e. housebreaking and voluntarily causing hurt) taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.
That being said, take note that the prosecutor has the ultimate discretion to decide which charges should be proceeded with against the accused, and which charges should be taken into consideration.
How Does the Court Give Effect to Charges Taken Into Consideration?
The court has the discretion in deciding what effect the charges taken into consideration should have on the overall sentence imposed on the offender. Generally, while a court will usually enhance the overall sentence on account of charges taken into consideration, this need not always be the case.
Some situations in which the court may not enhance the sentence on account of charges taken into consideration would include situations where:
- Rehabilitation is the dominant sentencing consideration; or
- The charges taken into consideration and the proceeded charges are based on the same culpable act
To better explain the second scenario, it may be useful to provide an example.
Consider a scenario where a person commits an offence and then submits false evidence to try and cover it up. The prosecutor eventually proceeds to charge him for the original offence, and have the offence of submitting false evidence taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.
Even if the person’s actions of submitting false evidence can be considered to be a distinct offence (as compared to committing the original crime), it is linked to the same culpable act. This is because the person essentially did so to cover up his involvement in the original crime that he had committed. In such a situation, the court may choose not to enhance the sentence awarded for the original offence committed.
Barring these special situations, the court will usually enhance the sentence when there is at least one charge being taken into consideration. However, the extent to which the court may enhance the sentence may vary on a case-by-case basis.
When determining how much to enhance a sentence by when taking certain charges into consideration, the court may also consider the following factors:
- The number and severity of charges that have been taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing. The larger the number, or the greater the severity of the charges, the more likely the sentence will be enhanced to a higher degree.
- Whether the charges taken into consideration show a criminal propensity on the part of the offender. Where such charges reveal that the offender has a high tendency to commit offences, the court may be more inclined to enhance the sentence even more.
Should You Consent to Have Charges Taken Into Consideration?
The opportunity to consent to have charges taken into consideration normally occurs where the prosecutor offers you a plea bargain.
In this situation, the prosecutor states that if you agree to plead guilty (instead of claiming trial), he will proceed against you for only some charges, with the rest being taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing. When the prosecutor makes such an offer, should you accept it?
As with making any decision, deciding whether to consent to have charges taken into consideration is a strategic choice and involves a range of considerations that you may have to contemplate. It may be worthwhile to consider some of the pros and cons in deciding whether you want to have charges taken into consideration.
There are some possible benefits to consenting to have charges taken into consideration:
- Even though you are admitting to the charge, it is important to remember that you will not be convicted of it. This means that you will not have a criminal record for the charges that have been taken into consideration.
- The law also does not allow the prosecution to reinstate charges or proceed to trial for the charges that an accused has consented to be taken into consideration for sentencing, unless your conviction for the main charge has been set aside. This means that once you have agreed to take certain charges into consideration, you gain immunity from being charged with or tried for these charges.
- As mentioned earlier, even if the sentence meted out in respect of the main charge is enhanced, the effect of such enhancement will likely be less severe than in situations in which the prosecution proceeds with all of the charges.
- In certain situations, consenting to have charges taken into consideration for sentencing may also be viewed as a mitigating factor. This is because the court considers the offender to have saved the court’s resources in determining his liability for such charges. The presence of such a mitigating factor may entitle the offender to a reduced overall sentence.
However, these benefits may have to be weighed against the potential cons of consenting to have charges taken into consideration:
- Even though you will not be legally convicted of those charges, you will still be admitting that you have committed the offences stated in them. You should thus at the very least consider whether you want to make this admission in the first place. If you are of the view that you are not guilty of the offences you have been charged with and will be able to mount a successful defence to get yourself acquitted of these charges, then you may not want to consent to have the charges taken into consideration. Otherwise, having such charges taken into consideration essentially puts you in a position of being given an enhanced sentence for offences that you may not have committed. It is best to discuss this with your criminal lawyer.
- Even though you may be able to receive a lighter sentence when you agree to have charges taken into consideration, it is not possible to precisely predict the extent and limit to which such charges will affect the final sentence. At the end of the day, it is up to the court to decide the extent of enhancement for the sentences for the charges that have been proceeded with. While in certain situations the charges taken into consideration may not have a significant impact on the overall sentence, in other situations they could lead to a substantial increase in it. That being said, the increased sentence that you may receive for having charges taken into consideration will likely still be lower than being sentenced for multiple charges separately.
What Happens If You Do Not Consent to Have Certain Charges Taken Into Consideration?
Ultimately, it is your choice as to whether you consent to have certain charges being taken into consideration. If you choose not to have such charges taken into consideration, the prosecution has the option to proceed with all of them against you.
It will then be up to you in trial to prove to the court that you had not committed the offences stated in these charges. If you are found guilty of the charges, however, you will then be handed a sentence for each charge that you have been convicted of.
To recap the discussion on taking charges into consideration, you need to be aware that:
- When you have been charged with multiple charges in Singapore, the prosecutor may give you the option of having certain charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing, while proceeding with the other charges.
- When you agree to have a charge taken into consideration, you will not be legally convicted of it. Neither will you be given a separate sentence for it.
- However, when the court is deciding what sentence to impose for the charges that have been proceeded against you, it can take the other charges into consideration and enhance your sentence accordingly.
- It is your choice as to whether you want to consent to having the charges taken into consideration. There are benefits and disadvantages from having charges taken into consideration. Ultimately it is a strategic decision as to whether you want to accept the prosecution’s offer, or whether you are prepared to contest all of the charges that have been brought against you.
As you can see from the discussion above, there are many factors that you may have to reflect on when deciding whether you should consent to have certain charges taken into consideration. It may thus be worthwhile to consult a criminal defence lawyer, who will be able to explain to you the effect of having charges taken into consideration in Singapore, and whether you should do so.
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