Are you facing a criminal charge and thinking of pleading guilty? If you have decided to plead guilty, are you unsure of what is going to happen? Here are 8 things you may wish to know about pleading guilty in Singapore.
- What is pleading guilty?
To plead guilty is to have the offender admit without qualification, to having committed the charge proffered against him by the Prosecution. The court will then proceed to convict and sentence the offender for the offence(s).
- Can I choose not to plead guilty?
Every offender has a right to defend himself. If the offender believes that there he is not guilty of the offence, he can choose not to plead guilty and claim trial instead.
- When should I be pleading guilty?
Generally, it is up to the offender when he wishes to plead guilty to his charge. He can choose to plead guilty when he is first charged in court or subsequently at any point of the criminal proceedings.
Even if the offender has indicated to the court his decision to claim trial, he can still change his mind and plead guilty at any point in time.
- What if I have more than one charge? Can I plead guilty to only some charges?
Yes. An offender does not need to plead guilty to all charges. He can choose to plead guilty to only some charges and claim trial to the remaining.
- How I plead guilty?
If the offender decides to plead guilty, he has to inform the court of his intention during the next court hearing. Thereafter, the court will schedule a date for the offender to plead guilty to his charge(s) and be sentenced.
- What happens during the plead guilty hearing?
During the plead guilty hearing, a document known as the Statement of Facts (“SOF”) will be read to the offender. The SOF is a document which details the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence. The offender must plead guilty to the SOF without qualification for the plead to be taken. If he disagrees with any part of it, the court will not continue with the plea of guilt until the disagreement has been resolved. In addition, the court must also be satisfied that the offender has pleaded guilty voluntarily and understands the nature and consequences of his plea.
Once the above are fulfilled, the court will convict the offender and proceed to consider the sentence to be meted.
To determine the sentence, the court will hear arguments from the Prosecution and the offender. At this point, the offender can raise mitigating values to plea for the court’s leniency to lighten his sentence.
Examples of mitigating factors are as follow:
- Offender’s personal background (family, education, employment)
- Restitution / Compensation made
- First timer offender
- Psychiatric condition*
* Psychiatric condition depends on factors such as the link of the condition to the offence, the nature and severity of the condition and the offender’s ability to make conscious choices and to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions.
- Can I appeal against my conviction and sentence?
If an accused is convicted following his plea of guilt, the law only allows him to appeal against the extent of his sentence. However, there are is still an alternative option known as criminal revision.
In criminal revision, the accused has to satisfy the court that his plea of guilt was not taken voluntarily or that he took the plea without fully understanding the statement of facts or charge.
If the accused believes that the sentence meted out to him is manifestly excessive, he may wish to appeal against it. That said, the Prosecution is also entitled to appeal if he opines that the sentence is manifestly inadequate.
- Can I withdraw my plea of guilt?
This only happens in very exceptional cases where the court is satisfied that the accused had taken his plea involuntarily or without fully understanding the statement of facts or charge.
Consult a lawyer