You may have heard of Singapore’s infamous littering, chewing-gum and vandalism laws – and even her jay-walking law.
Apparently, there is a law in place to curb every behaviour that is out of place.
Punishments can come in the forms of fines, imprisonment, caning and sometimes, even the death penalty.
But do not become unduly alarmed as many visitors who have been here long enough will tell you that such laws are enforced only when the act or the person committing the act becomes a public nuisance (but I wouldn’t suggest you taunt the authorities).
This page will familiarise you with all you need to know about the more common Singapore laws and their penalties.
Littering refers to throwing anything from a cigarette butt to a banana peel on the street side (throwing on the coffee shop or food court table doesn’t count). Even if you are inside a moving vehicle, cameras from its monitoring network along roads and buildings could be recording your “crime”.
Littering offenses carry fines of up to S$300 and community work.
Then there is “killer litter”. This usually refers to a Singapore phenomenon where large items are being thrown out of high-rise apartment windows. Previous items thrown out included TV sets, chairs, cabinets and babies. Penalty for this is very severe – even in cases where no one is harm in the act.
Killer litter offenders can be fined up to S$2,000 and 5 years imprisonment. Obviously, it’s a different story if babies are thrown out. Yes, this has happened in the past.
There is also a law against spitting (in public I mean; and not necessarily at anyone) but it is not clear if this comes under the littering law since the evidence usually evaporates.
Apparently, this law doesn’t apply to football fields. However, if you are a golfer and wonder if you can spit on the green, do check with your club captain.
Spitting offenses carry fines of up to S$500 and community work.
Usually, this law applies when there is a traffic junction and/or pedestrian lights nearby and you should be crossing at the lights instead of cutting across the road.
This law also covers crossing at traffic junctions when the walking light still shows red.
The authorities view jay-walking seriously. Offenders, if sentenced, may get a penalty of up to 3 months’ in jail. However, usually one gets away with a $50 fine – unless you cross the road with a herd of cows.
Singapore’s cleanliness can be observed everywhere. Even after the wheels of its public trains have worn out and come to a screech, the walls of its carriages are still spanking clean.
NOTE: Singapore’s Vandalism Act does not only refer to defacing of public properties but private property as well.
Here is its interpretation, taken from the government’s web site at http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_getdata.pl?actno=1966-REVED-341&doctitle=VANDALISM%20ACT%0A&date=latest&method=whole
“act of vandalism” means —
(a) without the written authority of an authorised officer or representative of the Government or of the government of any Commonwealth or foreign country or of any statutory body or authority or of any armed force lawfully present in Singapore in the case of public property, or without the written consent of the owner or occupier in the case of private property —
(i) writing, drawing, painting, marking or inscribing on any public property or private property any word, slogan, caricature, drawing, mark, symbol or other thing;
(ii) affixing, posting up or displaying on any public property or private property any poster, placard, advertisement, bill, notice, paper or other document; or
(iii) hanging, suspending, hoisting, affixing or displaying on or from any public property or private property any flag, bunting, standard, banner or the like with any word, slogan, caricature, drawing, mark, symbol or other thing; or
(b) stealing, destroying or damaging any public property”
This Act has been interpreted to include the plucking of street side flowers and leaves, and uprooting of designated plants (all plants in Singapore are “designated”).
Graffiti is strictly prohibited on all public properties – and as noted above – unless approved by the “authority” beforehand as art.
No caning for littering, spitting and walking badly as yet – but vandalism involves caning, as is widely known. Where the sentence involves caning, leniency is applied to those above 50 years of age.
“Singapore Customs warns that buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty unpaid cigarettes are serious offences under the Customs and GST Acts..
The public are also urged not to buy duty-unpaid cigarettes. Under the Customs Act, buyers stand to face hefty composition sums of up to $5,000 for the offence or prosecution in court.
Singapore Customs takes a serious view of smuggling, no matter how petty.
Returning Singaporeans and other visitors are strongly advised not to be tempted by the little savings that they can obtain from evading tobacco duties and taxes. When found, offenders will be severely dealt with.”
The penalties are based on the number of sticks of cigarettes in question, which can be found on this web page: http://www.customs.gov.sg/leftNav/trav/Customs+Offences.htm
Another serious offence in Singapore.
The law states that if you have more than 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters in your breath, or more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters in your blood, you would have broken the law.
And that if you do not have proper control of the vehicle, even if your alcohol level is under this limit, you are still convictable (obvious, isn’t it?).
(Recently the court sentenced a man for aggravated drink-driving despite the fact that the vehicle he was “driving” was a Segway. It is not known if this law extends to include those on motorised wheelchairs.)
A first-time offender will be fined between S$1000 and S$5000 or six months imprisonment.
A second-time offender will be fined between $3000 and $10,000 and imprisonment for a term of up to one year.
A repeated offender will face up to 3 times the penalty, a maximum of $30,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.
Offenders causing death or serious injuries may be caned up to 6 strokes. All those convicted will be disqualified from driving for at least 1 year.
The Singapore government bans smoking in public places except for officially designated smoking areas.
Food establishments are considered “public places” since “any member of the public can walk in”, the authority defined. This law applies to ALL food outlets, including coffee shops, food courts, food centres, restaurants and cafes.
Certain food establishments such as coffee shops may allow customers to smoke on their premises provided the establishment has obtained approval from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to set up a “designated smoking area”. This area is usually identified by a display sign that says, “Smoking Area”.
Diners who smoke are confined to such an area (it is usually an imaginary demarcation, so there isn’t any barricade erected). Non-smoking areas in coffee shops usually have their tables indicated by a non-smoking label.
Most air-conditioned restaurants assign a Smoking Area outside their air-conditioned premises, where patrons can dine, I mean smoke, “alfresco”. However, patrons who smoke and who prefer dining in the air-conditioned area may occasionally pop into the Smoking Area for a puff.
If you want a smoking seat in a restaurant, simply inform the service staff.
Offenders may be fined up to S$1,000.
The most serious of all offences.
Singapore has executed hundreds of people for drug offences.
Carrying 500 grams or more of marijuana (cannabis) will send you to the gallows.
Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act states that any person importing, exporting, or found in possession of more than the following quantities of drugs receives a mandatory death sentence:
• 1200 grams of opium and containing more than 30 grams of morphine
• 30 grams of morphine
• 15 grams of diamorphine (heroin)
• 30 grams of cocaine
• 500 grams of cannabis
• 1000 grams of cannabis mixture
• 200 grams of cannabis resin
• 250 grams of methamphetamine
Welcome to Singapore – so long as you are aware of Singapore laws!
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