By Gloria James-Civetta

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Your Rights When Arrested

6 min read

When can you be arrested?

There are generally 3 main ways that a person can be arrested:

  1. Firstly, a police officer may arrest a person with a warrant.
  2. Secondly, in certain situations, a police officer may arrest a person without a warrant.
  3. Thirdly, in certain situations, a private citizen may arrest you.

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The focus of this article will be on the rights a person has after they have been arrested.
Being put under arrest can be an extremely stressful experience. This is especially when a person does not know his legal rights. Most people think that they have certain rights based on the television shows that they have watched. Unfortunately, the same rights may not apply in reality.

Police’s rights

If you are placed under arrest, the Police have the right to ask you for your name, home address and NRIC number. The Police also have the right to search you and your belongings upon your arrest. They can also search any place that the Police believe contains evidence towards the crime that you have been accused of. This includes but is not limited to, your electronic devices, property and car. The Police can also seize your items during this investigation process.
The Police have the right to question any person in relation to the investigation. You are required by law to provide information (to the best of your ability) relating to the investigation by the police. This is under Section 22(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that any person being questioned by the police. However, you are not required to say anything that might expose you to a criminal charge, penalty or forfeiture.

Rights while making a Police Statement

If you are going to be charged, you will be asked to give a “cautioned statement” pursuant to Section 23 to the Police. This statement will generally be recorded in the English Language. If you are unable to understand English, you should inform the Police immediately and they will arrange for someone to interview you in a language that you are familiar with.
Pursuant to Section 23 of the Criminal Procedure Code, you have the right to remain silent and not provide any statement. However, the Court’s may draw an adverse inference from this.
If you have any defence, or you want to state your innocence, you should state it to the Police at the point of making the statement. Any facts that you intend to raise in your defence should be stated at this point. Facts that you raise later in court will not be as persuasive and may be deemed an “afterthought”.
After you give your statement, you will be allowed to read it again. If there are any discrepancies you should highlight it to the Police officer. The Police cannot force you to sign the statement. You should only sign it once you are satisfied with what has been recorded. This statement may be used against you in Court. A copy of this statement will be provided to you.
You must be very careful while making your statement, as this will be heavily relied upon when you go to Court. You must ensure that the statement is truthful and lays out your version of the events. You should also pay attention to the specific words that you use as this can also affect you when you go to Court.

Rights at the Police Station

The Police are not allowed to question you forcefully or continue questioning you when you are unwell. You are allowed to tell the Police officer that you cannot continue with the questioning and need to see a doctor. They must accede to this request.
You can also request for toilet breaks and to be given food and water.
That being said, you should not abuse these rights. If you purposely stop investigations by feigning illness or you refuse to talk to the Police at all, these considerations will be taken into account when you are charged in Court.
You should also ask for all your requests to be recorded.

What can you when you are arrested?

Being put under arrest can be an extremely stressful experience. This is especially when a person does not know his legal rights. Most people think that they have certain rights based on the television shows that they have watched. Unfortunately, the same rights may not apply in reality.

  1. According to article 9 (3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, where a person is arrested,
  • he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and,
  • shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

It is important to note that while a right to seek legal counsel exists, this right is not an unqualified right. An accused person is allowed to consult legal counsel within a reasonable time. This “reasonable time” has been interpreted widely by the courts. In the case of Jasbir Singh v Public Prosecutor [1994] 1 SLR(R) 782, the accused party was only given access to legal counsel after 2 weeks. In the case of Public Prosecutor v Leong Siew Chor [2006] 3 SLR(R) 290, the accused party was only given access to legal counsel after 19 days. In both these cases, this delay in access to legal counsel was deemed reasonable by the court.

This was reiterated by the Court of Appeal in James Raj s/o Arokiasamy v Public Prosecutor [2014] 3 SLR 750, where the court held that the right of access to counsel would be one available within a “reasonable time”. The reasoning for this was to allow police investigations to take place without unreasonable interference. This is in line with the government’s view as espoused by Law and Home Affairs Minister K.Shanmugam saying that this “reasonable time” requirement sought to “strike a balance between an accused’s rights and the public interest in ensuring thorough and objective investigations”[1]

  1. According to article 9(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, a person who has been arrested and has not been released must be brought before a Magistrate without unreasonable delay, and in any case within 48 hours.

For arrests without a warrant, an accused person cannot be held for more than 48 hours from the time of arrest. The police either have to bring the accused person to court within 48 hours or release him. However, the prosecutor may apply to detain the accused person for more than 48 hours in Court. The accused person is allowed to object to this. The Court will weigh the arguments by the Prosecutor as well as the accused person’s objection and make a decision on the matter. If the accused person has not been allowed to see a lawyer or family members, he can also raise this to the court.

The accused person may also use this opportunity to inform the court if he feels that he has been mistreated during the investigation process or to see a doctor. The accused person should also raise any promises/deals that the Police may have made/offered in relation to the charges during his audience before the Judge. If the accused person disagrees with the statement that he has made to the Police he should also inform the Judge immediately.


What can we do for you?

Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact our criminal representation lawyers at 6337 0469 or email us at

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