If you are arrested for a criminal offence, you may be wondering if your case can be dropped before you are formally charged in court. In Singapore, the criminal process allows the accused to make a request to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC“) to drop the charges through a Letter of Representation.
The AGC plays the key role as the Public Prosecutor and has powers to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for any offence.
What are representations?
When a person is arrested for a criminal offence, the police carry out investigations on the case. The findings of these investigations are sent to the AGC. The AGC has the power to determine if the accused needs to be charged in court and prosecuted for the offence.
After assessing the evidence, if the AGC decides to prosecute, the accused is produced before the court to be formally charged.
The AGC also has the power to drop or withdraw charges against an accused as per the prosecutorial discretion laid down in the Constitution.
Representations can be sent to request any of the following:
- Drop/withdraw the charge unconditionally.
- Reduce the charge to a lesser offence or less serious charge. This may occur when a valid defense is lacking or a more serious charge cannot be established.
- Issue a conditional or stern warning in place of the charge. The AGC or the police may impose certain conditions that the accused has to comply with. The Public Prosecutor has the right to prosecute the accused in the future for the same offence.
- Find out the Prosecution’s stance on sentencing.
- Request for the Prosecution to consider a certain sentencing position.
- Put forth any relevant information to the authorities that the accused may have failed to do during statement-taking.
- Making an offer for composition or compensation to the victim.
What is the procedure to request the dropping of charges?
To request the case to be dropped, representations have to be made to the AGC. This is done through formal communication called the Letter of Representation which is sent to the AGC with the request, the evidence, and the reasons to support the request.
The AGC examines the case and the evidence before exercising its powers to drop the charge. The AGC may also evaluate if pursuing the Prosecution is in the public interest before deciding.
Representations can be sent through email or on the AGC’s website. While the accused can write directly to the AGC, engaging a criminal lawyer to send the representation is beneficial. Given that the AGC has the sole power to drop the charges, it is vital to ensure the requests are respectful and that the appropriate channels are used.
One of the important reasons to engage a criminal lawyer to send a letter of representation is that the layperson may not be able to identify the legal issues in a case. Drafting the representation requires in-depth legal knowledge and involves strategic decisions that a criminal lawyer best handles.