Singapore is considered to be a safe city with a low crime rates. Expatriates working in Singapore are expected to be aware of the laws and legislations here as ignorance of the law is no defense. Penalties for crimes in Singapore are often more severe as compared to those of other western countries.
Expatriates should be careful not to commit any of the following common offences:
- Driving whilst under intoxication ($1000 to $5000 fine or up to 6 months prison for 1st offence);
- Using mobile-phone while driving (up to $1000 fine or up to 6 months prison or both for 1st offence);
- Careless/reckless driving (up to $3000 fine or 12 months prison or both for 1st offence);
- Unauthorised consumption and/or possession of drugs (up to 10 years or $20,000 fine or both);
- Commercial sex with minor under 18 (up to 7 years or fine or both);
- Theft (up to 3 years or fine or both);
- Shoplifting (up to 7 years and liable to fine);
- Computer Theft (up to $5000 fine or up to 2 years or both for 1st offence);
- Cheating or Fraud (up to 3 years or fine or both);
- Forgery or False documents (up to 4 years or fine or both).
The following offences are especially serious and are punishable with imprisonment and caning:
- Illegal entry or overstaying your visa by more than 90 days (up to 6 months and, up to 3 strokes or fine up to $6,000);
- Vandalism (up to 3 years or $2000 fine and, liable for 3-8 strokes);
- Outrage of modesty (i.e. molestation) (up to 2 years, liable for caning);
- Rape (up to 20 years, liable to fine or caning);
- Kidnapping (up to 10 years, liable to fine or caning);
- Robbery (2 to 14 years, min. 6 strokes caning);
- Unauthorised possession of firearm (5 to 14 years, min. 6 strokes).
These serious crimes attract the death penalty:
- Trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting more than 15 g of heroin, 30 g of morphine, 30g of cocaine, 500 g of cannabis, 200 g of cannabis resin and 1.2 kg of opium;
- If you are charged or investigated for an offence by the police, there is potential for significant disruption to your life and working schedule as you may need to take urgent leave to attend mandatory interviews at the police station during investigations. You could be detained for up to 48 hours when you are initially arrested. During this period, you may not be allowed to contact a lawyer or family member immediately and this puts your job at risk due to ‘mysterious disappearance’.
- Furthermore, if you are offered bail, you will have to find a Singaporean or Permanent Resident surety willing to act as your bailor and having the means to furnish your bail.
- If you are offered bail, your passport will have to be surrendered and you will have to seek permission from the police or the Court before you can travel. They may also impose additional bail conditions such as requiring your travel details and increasing the bail amount significantly.
- This may affect your ability to serve the functions of your job if you often need to travel on short notice or if your application to travel is altogether refused (See: Bail, para 4(a).
- Being charged may affect your ability to review your working visa with the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) especially if your employment pass is due to expire. You may instead be issued with a temporary “special pass” which has to be renewed on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This would mean frequent visits to the police station and MOM, to have the visa renewed.
- You may also attract a “blacklist” which will affect your future employment prospects in Singapore.
- This will depend on the specific terms of your particular employment contract and the code of conduct set by your employer. Generally, most employment contracts do state misconduct or conviction in a court of law as grounds for dismissal.
- Even if your employer does not dismiss you, you may face difficulty with renewal of your employment pass when it is due for expiry and a failure to obtain such pass would preclude you from being in Singapore.
- Unless the terms of your employment require so, there is no requirement for you to inform your employers of your circumstances as the result of the investigations could eventually mean that you are innocent.
- However, if you intend to plead guilty, you would likely need to inform your employer and may also wish to obtain a testimonial letter in support of your mitigation plea to ask the court for leniency in sentencing for the offence.
- It is good practice to engage a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you understand the nature of the charges and investigation, available defences, plea bargaining options and what to expect after trial and conviction.
- Your lawyer will also be able to assist you in making representations to the police and prosecution in an attempt to help you secure a stern warning rather than being charged in court for less serious offences.
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