What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police

Last updated on May 6, 2022

person in a hood surrendering to the police

Let’s say that you have committed an offence. You are unsure of how to move forward and are worried about the consequences of your actions. If you’re in this scenario, turning yourself in to the police may be the best and only thing you can do next.

In this article, we will discuss:

What is a Voluntary Surrender?

In essence, a voluntary surrender is going to the police to confess to a crime you’ve committed, as opposed to waiting for the police to find and arrest you.

What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police? 

The procedures you will face when you voluntarily surrender to the police are the same as if you had been arrested.

The actions taken against you depend largely on whether you’ve committed an arrestable or non-arrestable offence.

Arrestable offences refer to offences that allow the police to make an arrest without a warrant, and include offences like theft, robbery and rape. The rule of thumb is that offences that are punishable with at least 3 years of imprisonment, or a death sentence, are categorised as arrestable.

On the other hand, a non-arrestable offence is one where the police will need to obtain a warrant before carrying out an arrest. Offences that fall under this category are voluntarily causing hurt and dishonest misappropriation of property, among others.

If you have committed an arrestable offence

If you have committed an arrestable offence, the police will follow an arrest procedure that begins with taking you into custody after your voluntary surrender.

The police will then launch an investigation, which entails taking witness statements. Alternatively, you may have to make a notice statement if the police decides to go ahead with pressing charges.

You may be required to take a polygraph (or lie detector) test or participate in an identification parade, in which you are lined up with other people to allow victims and eyewitnesses to identify you, as well.

Ideally, you should be relatively well-versed with your rights in custody, such as the right to make a phone call to your family or to consult a lawyer (provided that these acts will not inhibit the investigation). However, it is important to note that your right to consult a lawyer typically arises only after interrogations have been conducted.

For more information, you may want to refer to our article on police custody in Singapore.

If you have committed a non-arrestable offence

In this scenario, even if you have turned yourself in to the police, you will not be taken into custody immediately.

Instead, the police will gather witness reports and record any parties involved. Any possible victim(s) of your offence will be advised to file a Magistrate’s Complaint for further action to be taken.

Once the Complaint has been received, the Magistrate will then decide what the most suitable course of action will be. It is only at this point that a warrant can be issued to take you into police custody, if the Magistrate directs the police to conduct an investigation into the Complaint.

Is Making a Voluntary Surrender a Mitigating Factor?

Voluntarily surrendering to the police demonstrates a willingness to cooperate and indicates likely remorse and repentance. Your surrender would also allow the police to invest their time and resources into other investigations.

This could play a part in the judge’s decision and you may be given a lighter sentence for your degree of cooperation.

Case study: No jail term after voluntary surrender

In 2018, then 24-year-old Ekawit Tangtrakarn, received a $6,000 fine for defaulting on his National Service (NS) duties.

Although Ekawit largely lived in Thailand, he was registered as a Singapore Citizen – making him liable for NS. In October 2015, he lost his Singaporean citizenship after failing to take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty within 12 months of his 21st birthday.

However, losing his Singaporean citizenship did not relieve him of his NS obligations, and Ekawit later voluntarily returned to Singapore to face his charges for defaulting on them. His voluntary return thus held weight as a mitigating factor.

Hence, after the court took other mitigating factors into account, what could have been a maximum 3-year imprisonment term and a $10,000 fine, being the maximum penalties under the Enlistment Act, became a possible 9-week jail term that was eventually reduced to a $6,000 fine.

Having your charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing

When it comes to your conviction and you are facing multiple charges, voluntarily admitting to your offences also prevents the situation of the prosecution proceeding with each charge against you separately. This allows for the possibility of you having such charges taken into consideration for sentencing instead.

As a result, you may face fewer charges or a reduced sentence compared to if you were to deny or dispute the charges.

Voluntarily surrendering to the police may prove to be helpful later in your case. Your admission to your crime could be well-received and work in your favour, reducing your punishment significantly.

If you are still unsure on how to proceed, you can engage a criminal defence lawyer to seek advice on your position, as well as clarify your rights. A seasoned lawyer will be able to best prepare you on what to expect if you turn yourself in and how to handle any investigations carried out against you.

You may reach out to any of our experienced criminal lawyers for legal advice and further assistance here.

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  11. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
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