What happens at the first Court hearing after you have been charged?
- When you are first charged in Court, a charge containing the criminal offence that you are accused of committing will be read or interpreted to you.
- The charge must contain details of the date, time, place, names of the victims and/or the items or property involved in the offence.
- You can be charged with more than 1 offence. If you are accused of more than 1 offence, each offence will be listed as a separate charge.
- You can also be charged together with other persons if they are accused of the same offence. Separate charges may be filed against you.
- If you do not understand the charge or offence or feel that it the charge or offence are not clear, you must tell the Court.
- If you need an interpreter, you must ask for the Court to provide one.
- After the charge is read and explained to you, you will be asked how you wish to plead to the charge, for example, “Do you wish to plead guilty?” (pleading guilty means that you admit to the charge) or “Do you wish to claim trial?” (claiming trial means that you deny the charge and you will challenge the accusations).
- If you have not yet decided whether or not you will plead guilty or claim trial to the charge, you may ask for the case to adjourned (postponed) to a later date to give you time to make a decision or obtain legal advice.
What reasons can you use to obtain an adjournment of your Court hearing?
- You can request for a short adjournment if you have not yet decided whether to plead guilty or claim trial to the charge, or you wish to consult or be represented by a lawyer
- Your lawyer will then advise you whether you should plead guilty, or claim trial. If you are unsure of what to do, always consult a lawyer to obtain advice on your rights and to help you weigh your options.
- Adjournments may also be granted for the following reasons:
- For your lawyer to apply for the documents and materials needed to advise you e.g. First Information Report (FIR) and to make representations on your behalf to the Public Prosecutor and Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
- For you to find the money to pay the fine or make restitution, if you intend to plead guilty to the charge.
- For you or your lawyer to prepare a mitigation plea, if you indicate an intention to plead guilty.
- For you to settle personal affairs before you are ordered to start serving a sentence of imprisonment, if any.
- Each adjournment is granted at the Courts’ discretion. If the Court grants an adjournment, you may be asked to provide bail. If bail is provided, you will be released. If no bail is provided, you will be detained or remanded in prison until bail is provided or till the next Court date.
What will happen if you miss your Court hearing?
- If you fail to attend a Court mentions or hearing, a Warrant of Arrest will be issued by the Court to secure your arrest and produce you in Court. If you are on bail, your surety may have his bail money or property forfeited by the Court.
- Warrants of Arrest can also be issued for non-payment of fines
- The Warrant of Arrest will be given to the Police’s Warrant Enforcement Unit for them to search for you. The Police may either arrest you or ask you to surrender at the Warrant Enforcement Unit for the warrant to be executed.
Can you absent yourself from your Court hearing if you are on Medical Leave or have a Medical Certificate?
- The Court will not accept a standard medical certificate that only states that you are medically unfit to attend work.
- The Court will only recognise and accept a medical certificate if:
- It contains the name of the doctor or medical practitioner who issued the certificate.
- It states the name of the hospital or clinic in which he practices.
- It states that you are medically unfit to attend Court – it is not enough for the medical certificate to state that you are medically unfit to attend work.
- It specifies the date(s) on which you are unfit to attend Court.
- It is signed in full by the doctor or medical practitioner.
- It is stamped with the doctor and medical practitioner’s full name and designation in the hospital or clinic.
- What happens when you are arrested after a Warrant of Arrest was issued against you?
- After the Warrant of Arrest is executed and you brought before the Court, you will need to explain your absence in Court on the previous hearing date.
- The Court will also deal with the charges against you if you are ready to give a plea.
- If you are also facing a show cause action, the Court may impose a fine if no satisfactory reasons are given for your absence.
- If you fail to turn up in Court even after the Warrant of Arrest is executed in cases for where you face charges under the Road Traffic Act (Cap 276) or The Parking Places Act (Cap 214, you may be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence until the case against you is completed or for such other period as the Court thinks fit.
What is a Notice to Surety?
- If you are on bail and a Warrant of Arrest has been ordered by the Court, a Notice to Surety to Show Cause will be issued against your bailor and the case fixed for mention in Court.
- At the Court hearing, your bailor will need to “show cause” or give reasons to explain to the Court why the bail monies should not be fully or partially forfeited.
- The Court may order that the bail money or property be fully or partially forfeited if your bailor fails to give a satisfactory explanation for your previous absence from Court.
If you would like to understand more about Criminal Law in Singapore how the issues discussed in this article may affect you, contact Singapore Criminal Defence Lawyer Jonathan Wong at [email protected] or +65 9424 6208 today.