Drug Offences are on the rise!

Read this carefully. This could help you or a family member or a Friend.

Although drug related offences are considered serious offences in Singapore, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding the topic. Perhaps the most often heard misconception is that the punishment for drug related offences is the death penalty. While it is true that trafficking of certain controlled drugs attracts the death penalty, it should be noted that this punishment is reserved for the most serious of offences involving the trafficking of certain drugs above a prescribed amount. The death penalty is never imposed for mere consumption. Furthermore, with the amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2012, the death penalty is no longer a mandatory punishment for trafficking offences in certain situations.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug related offence, you would undoubtedly have some pressing questions. This section aims to provide a brief guide to drug offences in Singapore. It should be noted that this is a broad overview of the topic and should not be construed as legal advice. It is important that you consult your lawyer for proper legal advice if you have been charged with such offences.

1. What is a controlled drug?

Controlled drugs are listed in the First Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act. There are three categories of controlled drugs – Class A, Class B and Class C drugs. Generally, Class A drugs attract heavier penalties than Class B and C drugs.

2. Possession and Consumption

Possession and consumption of a controlled drug is an offence in Singapore. Furthermore, under s 8A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, Singaporeans and Permanent Residents can be found guilty of consumption even if they had consumed such drugs outside Singapore.

3. Range of custodial sentences for possession/consumption of a Class A drug.

First-time Offenders: For first time offenders, the general range of sentences is between 6 – 18 months imprisonment. However, this is merely a general range, and the courts have in some instances deviated from this. For example, In PP v Kho Chin Hu, the accused was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and $15,000 fine for possession of a Class A drug (two Ecstacy pills). In PP v Tan Lit Kah, the accused was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment for possession and consumption of Ecstacy.

Enhanced Punishments

4. If an accused person is a repeat offender, and is subsequently charged for consumption of a specified drug listed in the Fourth Schedule (including cannabis, cocaine, diamorphine, ketamine and others), then he or she will be subjected to enhanced punishments.

5. Positive Urine Tests

If a person is subjected to urine testing for controlled drugs, and the result is positive, s 8 (1) (b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act invokes a presumption that the person has consumed that particular drug. However, it should be noted that this is a presumption and it can be rebutted with contrary evidence. In PP v Tan Chui Yun Joselyn, the court found the accused not guilty of consumption because evidence had been adduced showing that the accused had consumed the controlled drug unknowingly.[2]

6. Presumptions relating to possession

The law presumes that anyone who has custody or control over anything containing controlled drug(s) is presumed to be in possession of the drug(s).[3]

7. Trafficking of Controlled Drugs

The definition of trafficking includes selling, giving, administering, transporting, sending, delivering or distributing a controlled drug.[4] In addition, if a person is in possession of quantities of a controlled drug that exceed a prescribed amount, the law invokes a presumption that he or she is in possession of that drug for the purposes of trafficking. Section 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act lists the prescribed amounts that attract this presumption. Anything over these threshold amounts will attract the presumption. The threshold amounts include:[5]

• 2 grammes of diamorphine
• 15 grammes of cannabis
• 3 grammes of cocaine
• 25 grammes of methamphetamine
• 113 grammes of ketamine

Once this presumption is triggered, the onus is on the accused to prove that he or she did not intend to traffic such drugs.

[1] Dinesh Singh Bhatia v PP [2005] 3 SLR (R) 1
[2] PP v Tan Chui Yun Joselyn [2003] 2 SLR 85
[3] s 18 (1) Misuse of Drugs Act
[4] s 2 Misuse of Drugs Act
[5] This list is not exhaustive