Criminal investigations usually commence:-
- Upon the receipt of a ‘999’ call;
- When a police complaint (made by way of a report) is filed at the station or online;
- At the crime scene; or
- During the police patrol when the police may arrest one for reasonable suspicion
This article sheds light on what one as an accused or suspect should expect when undergoing the criminal investigation process, and highlights rights and obligations of the accused during the said process.
1. At the Time of Arrest: Your Rights at the Time of Arrest
After the police receives a complaint as stated above, the police may decide to arrest a suspect.
- In general, according to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code, a police officer does not need to furnish you an arrest warrant for offences allegedly committed, punishable with imprisonment for more than 3 years. However, a police officer is required to furnish you a warrant for offences allegedly committed, which are punishable with imprisonment for less than 3 years, or a fine.
- Pursuant to Section 64(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, any police officer may, without a warrant, arrest any person who:
- has been concerned in an arrestable offence; or
- is reasonably suspected of having been involved in an arrestable offence; or
- has a reasonable complaint made against them, or where credible information has been received regarding the alleged offence.
- Pursuant to Section 69 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an arrest warrant may be executed by any police officer or person appointed by the Commissioner of Police, or by the head or director of a law enforcement agency. During the arrest, Section 73 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that you have the right to ask the person arresting you to inform you of the contents of the warrant, and/or to let you see the warrant or a copy of it.
- Article 9(3) of the Constitution stipulates that the suspect or accused must be informed of the reasons for his or her arrest as soon as may be.
2. After Arrest, and at the Police Station/Headquarters: Your Rights After Being Arrested
Upon being arrested, and as part of the criminal investigation process, you will be taken to a regional police headquarters where you may be remanded for interviews.
- Your belongings that you have with you will be taken by the police, and there will be a log of these belongings which you will be asked to verify by them.
- At this stage when you are detained at the police station, you may request to make a phone call to family members or a criminal lawyer. Article 9(3) of the Constitution also allows the accused to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
- It is noted however, that the accused does not have a right to be informed of his or her constitutional right to legal counsel.
- The police do not have to give the accused access to legal advice upon arrest, or before they take his statements. According to James Raj s/o Arokiasamy v Public Prosecutor  3 SLR 750, the accused only needs to be given access to legal counsel within reasonable time after his arrest. It is noted in various other Court judgements that 2 weeks or 19 days of non-assess to counsel was considered reasonable. If access to counsel is denied, the police bear the burden of proving that access to a legal counsel would impede police investigations.
3. After Arrest, and During the Course of Criminal Investigations: Your Rights and Obligations During Investigations
During the course of the investigations, the police will detain you and may interview you regarding the offence(s) in question.
- Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that whilst in custody, you will be interviewed as your role in the alleged offence(s), and the answers you provide will be recorded in a statement via writing or audio-visual recording.
- The officer who records your statement is often the investigating officer of the case. He/she will record answers that you give and anything you say in response to questions that they ask in the course of their investigations. The record of your answers will be put into what is referred to as a Long Statement which will be read back to you and given to you for your verification. You will also be required to sign on it to confirm its contents. If you have any amendments, additions or corrections, you should include it before signing. The long statement is not given to you during investigations. If, in the event of a trial, it is intended to be used as evidence against you, a copy will be given to you then.
- You do not need to state anything that could incriminate you at the time of providing answers, however, if you later reveal facts in trial that were not mentioned in your statements, the Court may draw an adverse inference from your failure to have mentioned such facts in those statements.
- During the course of criminal investigations, you may be asked to go to the crime scene to assist the police in recreating the events of the alleged offence. You may also be asked to assist in drawing of blood samples for DNA testing, and/or to undergo a polygraph test.
- If clarifications are required from you in the course of investigations, the police may call you down to the police station to record a further statement from you.
- Section 23 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that if the Prosecution decides to charge you with an offence, the police must serve and read to you a notice in writing about the charge that will be tendered against you. After the notice has been read to you, you have the opportunity to state the material facts in your defence. While you may remain silent, this silence will be recorded and may lead to an adverse inference against you at trial.
- The said statement is called a Cautioned Statement. It is important to try to recollect facts as best as you can and recount them to the police, as recorded statements are often used as evidence for or against you in Court. At the end of the interview, the Cautioned Statement, which will be in writing, will be read back to you, and you will be required to sign on it to confirm its contents. You also have a right to the copy of the Cautioned Statement.
- In the recording of your long statement, further statements or cautioned statement, you have the right to ask for an interpreter for assistance in the language that you understand during the course of your investigations.
4. After 48 Hours from Time of Arrest: Your Right to be Released From Arrest
- Section 68 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that an accused who was arrested without a warrant, can only be detained for a maximum period of 48 hours from the time of arrest.
- According to Section 67 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused person must be brought to the Court without unnecessary delay.
- If the police intend to detain you beyond the initial 48 hours, they would be required to present you before a magistrate in the First Mentions Court in person, or via video link. At that time, the magistrate will decide whether you should be further detained or placed on bail.
5. Your Right to Grant of Bail
- In general, Section 2(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that “bailable offence” refers to offences that are punishable with imprisonment for less than 3 years, or punishable with a fine only, or which is made bailable by any other written law. A “non-bailable offence” is any offence other than a bailable offence.
- Section 92 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that where a person is charged with a bailable offence, and is arrested without warrant by police officer, or is brought before Court is prepared to give a bail, the person must be released on bail.
- Section 93(1) and Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that for non-bailable offences, the general position is that bail is not available to the accused as of right, but the Court or police has discretion whether or not to offer bail.
6. Your Right to See First Information Report
- To see the complaint made against you to the police station, a request and application for the First Information Report can be made. Court judgments have held that this was of right so that an accused person can be in the position to defend him or herself.
The criminal investigation process is complex, and it is important to have access to legal counsel sooner rather than later in the court process. Contact one of our dedicated criminal lawyers who will be able to give you quality advice and personal attention to your specific legal troubles.