Can Police Officers Enter Your House in Singapore?

officer ready to break into house

Can police officers come knocking at your door in Singapore to enter your home? The short answer is yes, in certain cases.

As of January 2022, the police have gained new powers that allow them to respond and protect the public more proactively. For example, they can now make forced entry into any place in case of medical emergencies, in addition to existing situations such as suicide.

This article will inform you of when police officers can enter your home and what you should do if such a scenario arises. It will cover:

When Can Police Officers Enter Your Home?

If suspicious behaviour or activity is detected

Police officers may enter your home if they have suspicions about actions going on in it. For example, police officers have entered the units of an HDB block where a rubbish chute fire had started multiple times in a week, in order to conduct investigations.

If you may have committed an offence

Police officers may enter your home to arrest you if you have committed an offence.

If the offence is an arrestable one, then the police may enter your house to arrest you without first obtaining a Warrant of Arrest. On the other hand, if the offence is non-arrestable, then the police will need to obtain a Warrant of Arrest before they can enter your house to arrest you.

You may find out if an offence is arrestable under the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). Examples of arrestable offences include theft and criminal trespass. If an offence is not listed in the First Schedule of the CPC, then the offence is generally non-arrestable. For example, non-arrestable offences include voluntarily causing hurt and minor traffic offences.

For more information, please see our other article on arrestable and non-arrestable offences.

In addition, in cases where a Commercial Affairs Officer suspects that someone in your home has committed any offence, the Commercial Affairs Officer may forcefully enter your home even if he or she is refused entry. A Commercial Affairs Officer is a police officer under the Commercial Affairs Department in the Singapore Police Force, which mainly conducts investigations into commercial frauds and abuses.

To search your home

A police officer may also enter your home to search your home if the officer has a search warrant.

Without a search warrant, a police officer may search your home only if:

  • The officer has grounds for believing that any stolen property will be removed from your home by the time the search warrant is obtained; or
  • The officer is searching for an item they consider to be necessary for the investigation of an arrestable offence, and:
    • The officer has reason to believe that if they order a person to hand over the item, that person will not do so,
    • The officer has reason to believe that the item is likely to be removed, or
    • It is not known who has possession of the item.

If someone in your home is attempting or has died by suicide

A police officer might also enter your home without a warrant where the police officer has reasonable suspicion that someone in your home is about to attempt or has died by suicide, and that entering your home is reasonably necessary for any of the following purposes:

  • To prevent personal injury, hurt, or death to any person
  • To facilitate an inquiry if a person died by suicide
  • To preserve evidence in respect of any arrestable offence that may have been committed

In such cases, a special police officer and a forensic specialist with the requisite authorisation may also enter your home.

If there is a medical emergency

A police officer may also enter your home without a warrant to attend to a medical emergency if all of the following are fulfilled:

  • The police officer reasonably suspects that a person in your home requires medical assistance
  • The police officer is unable to gain entry to your home
  • The police officer believes that entry into your home is necessary to protect the person’s life, health, or safety

In such cases, a special police officer and a forensic specialist with the requisite authorisation may also enter your home.

How Do I Know If the Person at My Door is Really a Police Officer?

You can request the person to verify their status as a police officer to ensure that they are not impersonating a police officer to enter your home. For example, you could ask the police officer to show you their warrant card. If you’re still in doubt, you could call the police for assistance in verifying the person’s status as a police officer.

As opposed to being a police officer, the person at your door could also be a safe distancing enforcement officer. Safe distancing officers can legitimately enter your house without a warrant if they have reason to believe that you have, for example, been carrying out social gatherings beyond the permitted number of visitors under the COVID-19 regulations.

Can I Refuse Entry to Police Officers?

If you refuse entry to police officers in any of the above scenarios, the police officer may forcefully enter your home.

In such cases, you may be charged with the offence of obstructing a public servant under section 186 of the Penal Code. The maximum sentence is imprisonment of up to 3 months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

It can be scary when strangers enter your home, even if they claim to be police officers. It is therefore important to know your rights and when a police officer can legitimately enter your home.

Notwithstanding this, police officers will generally enter your home only to ensure the safety of yourself or others, or if they reasonably suspect you or someone in your home of having committed an offence.

If police officers have entered your home to arrest you or someone you live with over a suspected criminal offence, however, it is recommended to engage a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help prepare evidence to assist the suspect in defending the matter, assess the strengths of the case and provide advice on the next steps.

You may contact experienced criminal lawyers here.