An arrest is the process that begins when the police takes a suspect into custody. This process is complete when the suspect is no longer free to walk away from the arresting officer, mainly due to evidence and credible facts to support the alleged offence.
However, certain questions may arise from this definition.
What is an arrestable offence?
Can the police arrest someone without a warrant?
Can an arrest be made by a non-police officer?
What can the suspect do?
Will the suspect be informed of the reasons behind the arrest?
What happens after that?
Some of the more common arrestable offences include rape, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, theft, robbery and drug consumption. A police officer may arrest a suspect without a warrant if the person is suspected of being involved in an arrestable offence made on the grounds of credible information and definite facts.
If the offence is not an arrestable one, such as causing hurt, as opposed to grievous hurt, the police will first conduct an investigation after a report has been made. The decision will then be made on whether to obtain an arrest warrant against the suspect.
A person who has been arrested with a warrant must be produced in Court as soon as possible and depending on the offence, bail may be offered.
A person can also be arrested without a warrant for a non-arrestable offence if he or she refuses to provide his/her name and residential address upon request. However in this case, the person can only be detained in custody for a maximum of 48 hours.
What happens during the arrest?
The police must inform the suspect of the reasons behind the arrest. While there is no specific timeline for this process, the police can only hold the suspect for a maximum of 48 hours after the arrest. After this period has lapsed, the police will have to produce the suspect before a magistrate and make an application for further remand.
The process of an arrest can be broken down into the following components.
Detention: Upon arrest, the suspect will likely be searched and taken back to the police headquarters for further questioning. After that, the suspect may be remanded in a police lock-up for further investigations.
Any personal belongings will need to be surrendered to the police. These items will be logged and the suspect will be made to verify them. A copy of this log will also be given to the suspect.
The suspect may request to make a phone call to a family member. However, this request may be denied if the police determines it could interfere with investigations.
In some cases, the suspect may be released, placed on bail and called back for further investigations at a later time.
Take note that when a suspect is arrested, it does not mean the person is charged for the offence. This only happens after the suspect is formally charged by the Public Prosecutor in court before a trial can begin.
At this point, it is recommended that the suspect engage a solicitor who can help him/her better understand the situation, provide advice on statements and more importantly, make representations on the suspect’s behalf to help reduce the chances of being charged.
Further Investigations: Whilst in custody, the suspect will be interviewed with breaks in between. There are two types of statements that the police may take — a “long statement” which consists of answers that the suspect gives in response to questions; and a “cautioned statement”.
You have have seen crime dramas on TV where upon arrest, the police officer tells the suspect that they “have the right to remain silent, anything that they say may be used against them.” Whatever the suspect says after that, is a “cautioned statement”.
This is usually done when a suspect has been formally charged and is used as a last opportunity to reveal the facts and defences that he/she intends to rely on during the trial.
If the suspect admits to the crime at this point, then that statement will be classified as an admission.
The suspect may also be taken to the crime scene to recreate the events of the alleged offence. Blood may also be drawn for DNA samples, as well as fingerprints and a mugshot taken for identification purposes. The suspect may also be required to take a polygraph (lie-detector) test.
Do note that when the “long statement” is being recorded, the suspect need not say anything that may incriminate them. The statement will then be read back and given to the suspect for verification. It is important to look through it carefully, correct any discrepancies and then sign the relevant amendments as indicated by the police officer.
It is always good practise to record each moment down as much as possible, before seeing a lawyer. If the suspect does not understand English, a request can be made for an interpreter to help record and verify the statement.
What happens if one gets formally charged?
If the decision is made to charge the suspect, the investigating officer will arrange a meeting at the police station to read the charge, and to ask if the suspect admits to it.
Even if the suspect disagrees with the charge, signing the charge sheet does not mean admission. It just acknowledges that the suspect has read and understood the charges being brought against them.
Refusing to sign the charge will be recorded and may be presented to the court. The suspect will know if they are to get charged in court if the investigation officer either informs them of it, or requests that the suspect bring a bailor to the police station who will need to secure their attendance in court.
What happens after one gets released from the police station?
Investigations can take anywhere from a few days to years, depending on the complexity of the alleged offence. It is always advisable to fully cooperate with the police by providing all the information one may have either as a witness, defence or alibi. A lawyer can be engaged to prepare a letter of representation of these details on one’s behalf.
Once the investigating officer has gathered sufficient evidence, the police will then submit the results of the investigations to the Public Prosecutor who will make the final decision on whether to formally proceed with the prosecution.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the Public Prosecutor may then exercise his/her discretion to either proceed with the prosecution or not, regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence.
Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.