Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. While you are traveling in Singapore, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you break local laws in Singapore, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not in Singapore. In Singapore, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. In Singapore, you can be arrested for jaywalking, littering, or spitting. Commercial disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore and may result in heavy fines and prison sentences. There are also some things that might be legal in Singapore but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Mandatory Caning Sentences: Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses. Authorities in Singapore may also impose caning for immigration violations and other offenses. Singaporean authorities do impose these sentences on foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens. Males over the age of 50 and women are not subject to caning.
Mandatory Death Penalty for Many Narcotics Offenses: Singapore police have the authority to compel both residents and non-residents to submit to random drug analysis. They do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws. In Singapore, detained U.S. citizens have been surprised when they were arrested for violations that would not have resulted in arrest in the United States.
There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases; legal assistance may be available in some other cases through the Law Society.
Carrying Firearms: There are very strict penalties for those who possess or carry arms, or who commit crimes with arms. Singaporean authorities define “arm” as any firearm, air-gun, air-pistol, automatic gun, automatic pistol, and any other kind of gun or pistol from which any shot, bullet, or other projectiles can be discharged or from which noxious liquid, flame, or fumes can be emitted, and any component thereof. This definition also includes any bomb or grenade and any component thereof. The unlawful possession of any arm or ammunition, including a single bullet in your luggage as you transit the airport, could result in imprisonment and caning. If you are convicted of committing a crime with an arm, you could receive punishment which could result in the maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and caning.
Engaging in sexual conduct: In Singapore, local law prohibits causing or encouraging prostitution of, or engaging in sexual relations with, a female below the age of 18. An indecent assault against anyone, male or female, regardless of age, is also prohibited. If you are convicted of facilitating or abetting the prostitution of any woman or girl, you could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine, or both. If the crime involves a female below the age of 16, you face an additional charge carrying a possible sentence of imprisonment of up to three years and a fine, or both.
Singapore enforces strict laws pertaining to the propriety of behavior between people and the modesty of individuals. The Singaporean law “Outrage of Modesty” is defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person with the intent to, or the knowledge that it may, outrage the modesty of that person. Penalties may include imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, caning, or a combination thereof. Men are sometimes accused of inappropriately touching other people, often women, resulting in their prosecution and punishment under this Singaporean law. Scams involving a claim of outrage of modesty are thought to exist, and male travelers should be very cautious when frequenting popular nightspots.
Arrest notifications in Singapore: If you are arrested in Singapore, authorities of Singapore are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned the Embassy may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the Embassy of your arrest.
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