Search Warrants In Singapore: Know Your Rights

by | Oct 15, 2023 | Blog

The Singapore State Court grants search warrants to the Commissioner of Police, police officer, or other authorised persons to conduct searches on-premises and seize property related to a criminal investigation.

A search warrant in Singapore may also be issued if the Court has strong reason to believe a person ordered to present evidence or is in possession of evidence will not comply with the summons.

In kidnapping cases where authorities must search and rescue an individual, officers must also secure a Court-issued search warrant before they can legally enter any premises.

A search warrant is only valid if it meets the following criteria:

    • It is in writing;
    • It bears the Court seal;
    • A Magistrate or District Judge, a Judge from the General Division of the High Court, or the Registrar of the Supreme Court has signed it.

Generally, the Court issues search warrants if it believes a search and inspection of premises will aid in a criminal investigation or serve another purpose of justice.

1. What Can The Police Do If They Have A Search Warrant?

The Criminal Procedure Code of Singapore states that search warrants could allow for the search of entire premises or parts. Here are the two types:

  • General Search Warrant – Allows an executing police officer to perform a general search of premises and seize property, documents, and goods discovered during the search. Police officers with a general search warrant can inspect and acquire items as they see fit to aid in an ongoing criminal investigation.
  • Specific Search Warrant – A specific search warrant only allows an officer to search and/or seize items from Court-specified areas.

Police officers may also do other specific activities if they have a valid search warrant:

  • Enter the premises specified in the search warrant and bring assistance as needed.
  • Search and inspect the premises, as stated in the search warrant.
  • Secure any items, property, or documents discovered during the search which are reasonably believed to have been stolen, illegally obtained, falsified, forged, or counterfeit.
  • Watch over the seized goods until the offender is brought before the Court.
  • Arrest any person on the premises suspected of being involved in the deposit, sale, storage, or manufacture of the seized items.
  • Present the seized goods before the Court.
  • Store the seized goods in a safe and secure location.

2. Can Police Search An Area Without A Search Warrant In Singapore?

It’s possible for police to lawfully search an area even without presenting a valid search warrant, but only under the following circumstances:

  1. They have reasonable cause to believe any stolen property from the premises will be removed from it by the time police have obtained a search warrant.
  2. (In investigations involving an arrestable offence):
    1. They believe the person in possession of the stolen property will refuse to hand over the item to them; or
    2. They don’t know who has the property.

During such cases, the police must list all the items found which are alleged to have been missing, stolen, or unlawfully obtained. They must also state in writing that someone had committed an offence (warranting the search).

If an informant tipped police of the possible location, the police must state in writing there is reasonable cause to believe the stolen property is in that area.

3. Can Someone Else Execute A Search Warrant?

As previously mentioned, the Court can also grant another authorised individual (not part of the Singapore Police) a search warrant.

In such cases, the writing and language of the warrant must be clear, concise, and specific. It must also include information on the scope of the warrant.

If someone who isn’t a police officer shows up at your door demanding a search of your place, make sure the search warrant contains the following:

  • A clear list or description of objects or classes of things which may be seized
  • Information on whether the person with the warrant can forcefully enter the premises if the individual staying in it expresses refusal for the person to enter
  • The value of the bond that the person executing the search warrant needs to sign. This ensures the proper execution of the search warrant.
  • The warrant may also include other conditions and restrictions to avoid any breach of rights or peace.

4. What To Expect During A Search?

Evidence Chain of Custody Labels and brown paper bag with fingerprints applicant card lies against big heroin packets and packs of money bills as evidence in crime scene investigation process close up

The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) states that any authorised person (not just a police officer) with a search warrant should act according to the warrant’s terms. You can expect them to do the following:

  • Enter and search the property during the date or period stated in the warrant.
  • If you are present at the time of the search, the officer with the warrant must:
    • Identify themselves to you.
    • Show evidence they’re an authorised person or police officer (For police, request a Warrant Card showing proof/verification of them being a police officer).
    • Show you the warrant and give you an exact copy of it upon request.
  • If the Court issues the search warrant to someone who isn’t a police officer, the latter must report to the Court the fact that they are not a police officer. They must also hand the Court a comprehensive list of all items seized during the search.

If you’re not present during the search, but someone else is at home, the conditions above apply as if they are the property’s owner and occupier.

5. What Happens To Seized Goods After A Lawful Search?

Any items discovered after the execution of the search warrant will be properly stored or disposed of as the police see fit. For instance, some things may be secured as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation.

The police officer (or any authorised person with a search warrant) should come up with a complete list of items they seized during the search. They should also file a written report stating where each item was discovered.

The list/report should be given to the owner/occupier of the premises, who may also be present at the time of the search.

During a trial or inquiry, the Court may legally take hold of any stolen property or document presented before them. When the trial concludes, the Court can either dispose of or use the property for continuing Court proceedings or investigations.

6. Can The Court Cancel A Search Warrant?

back of attastor talking to magistrate in court. the law adjustment concept

It’s generally within the Court’s discretion to cancel or suspend the issuance of a search warrant if they have good grounds to do so. This is often the case in illegal searches, where a person may have gone beyond the warrant’s scope.

Therefore, any items and documents obtained or anyone arrested during the unlawful search will be inadmissible in an investigation, inquiry, or trial.

The detained individual (owner/occupier of the search area) may also press charges and file a police report for trespassing, criminal force, or a civil claim for damages.


Conclusion About Search Warrants In Singapore

When a police officer or someone shows up at your door with a valid search warrant, you are required by law to allow them entry into your place and cooperate during the search. But you’re also within your rights to request a copy of the warrant and understand all its terms.

If you are prevented from observing the search into your place, insist to the police that your presence is essential. This is so you can spot any irregularities during the search (i.e. if it does not adhere to the terms in the warrant).

Have you been issued a search warrant and are unsure what to do We strongly advise you to seek legal assistance from our criminal lawyers in Singapore. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation and seek assistance from a legal professional today. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Search Warrants In Singapore

What’s The Difference Between A Search And Arrest Warrant In Singapore?

A search warrant refers to the seizure of suspected stolen or unlawfully obtained property as part of a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant involves bringing a suspected offender into police custody (in connection with an investigation).

Are Police Allowed To Search You In Singapore?

Yes. Police can search you in Singapore if they suspect unusual behaviour or activity if you have committed an arrestable offence, or in situations involving grave medical emergencies. Contact a criminal lawyer in Singapore if you believe an unlawful search has been committed.

Can Police Force Entry Without A Warrant?

Yes. If you are caught in the act of an arrestable offence, the police may forcibly enter your house and arrest you even without a Warrant of Arrest.

How Long Can You Be In Police Custody In Singapore?

48 hours. If you have been arrested, police can detain you for up to 28 hours. If they wish to put you in custody longer, they must provide valid reasons for doing so before a Magistrate.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.