What is an Arrestable Offence and What Isn’t?

Sometimes, when scrolling through social media posts, you may come across videos or photos of incidents where a potential criminal act has happened, yet the person who committed it did not get arrested, or the police may have shown up but only recorded the identities of those involved. 

A common reaction to such posts is that of general confusion about what is deemed a crime and what isn’t. However, it’s actually up to the police to determine if a crime is arrestable or not, based on a few factors.

Arrestable Offences

The main difference between an arrestable and non-arrestable offence is the requirement for an arrest warrant. By law, the police will need a warrant before they are allowed to make the arrest, and they will have to follow a specific arrest procedure. This means that even if it’s a non-arrestable offence, the police can still make the arrest once they obtain the warrant or if the victim decides to press charges.

However, for arrestable offences, the police are empowered by the law to arrest the suspect without a warrant, following the same arrest procedure. According to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), arrestable and non-arrestable offences are labeled as “may arrest without warrant” and “shall not arrest without warrant”. One way to remember this:

  • Arrestable: Offences punishable with 3 or more years of imprisonment, or death
  • Non-arrestable: offences punishable with less than 3 years of imprisonment, or with a fine

Examples of Arrestable Offences:

According to the Penal Code, here are just some examples of arrestable offences where the police can arrest the suspect without a warrant:

  • Murder, or a rash act, or an attempt that could cause death
  • Voluntarily causing grievous hurt, or using a dangerous weapon
  • Rash or negligent driving
  • Rape
  • Theft and robbery
  • Assault, or use of criminal force with intent to outrage modesty, such as molest
  • Criminal trespass
  • Committing an obscene act in public, unlawful assemblies, fighting in a public place or rioting
  • Impersonating, threatening or obstructing a public servant 

A person can also be arrested if found to be an army deserter or possessing housebreaking tools without a good reason for doing so.

Most of the confusion between arrestable and non-arrestable offences in social media videos usually revolves around the difference between causing hurt, which is non-arrestable, and causing grievous hurt, which is an arrestable offence. 

Non-arrestable Offences

If the police deem that the offence is non-arrestable, that doesn’t mean the suspect gets away. The police will recommend the victim to file a police report and a Magistrate’s Complaint at the Community Justice Tribunals Division (CJTD) for the Court to decide on issuing an arrest warrant for the suspect.

The police will then follow up by gathering witness reports, recording the identities of the parties involved and also ensure that any injured persons receive immediate medical treatment. Once the Magistrate decides that the case is worth pursuing, the police will then receive the warrant and proceed to arrest the suspect. 

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation where you’re still unsure of the difference between an arrestable and non-arrestable offence and need to speak to a legal professional, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years, from traffic offences, and high-profile criminal cases to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Additional Resource: https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/arrestable-or-not-seizable-and-non-seizable-offences-in-singapore/