So as what the title suggests, I am someone who has been basically charged with voluntarily causing hurt. So here I am, a week away from court and a highly possible jail term.
I thought I should write this post basically to document my own feelings at this point, and perhaps offer some advice on what to do and possibly what not to do when something like this happens.
So first, the context. Some time in April, I was having drinks in town. I took a bit too much alcohol. Not an excuse, but it was a night that was particularly stressful for me as I encountered some work related issues. So basically I took a cab from town back to my home.
I slept mostly throughout. When it reached my house, I realized I had not enough cash on me. So I tried to pay with my debit card. It somehow didn’t work and I assumed that the machine was not working since I had just used my debit card earlier. I guess I was too high to even think about trying with another card, which was probably what I should have done and this whole entire issue would not even have happened.
So the next thing that I did was to try to use my online banking app to try to transfer money to him but I realized half way that I didn’t have my token with me and I couldn’t possibly do it. I then suggested to the taxi driver that we exchanged contact and I transfer the money to him later. The amount by the way was about 20 over dollars. He rejected.
Then I suggested to him that I can go upstairs to take money for him and he can keep my bank card and also even my IC. He again rejected. By then, I didn’t feel like I have any other options except to go up to my house to take money for him. I stepped out of the taxi and headed to the side gate of my house. The taxi driver got out of the taxi as well and then rushed over to grab me, to prevent me from leaving without paying. I guess naturally he would have assumed that I was trying to leave without paying.
When he grabbed onto me, I told him to let go and he refused. This was when I started to feel pissed off, I started pushing him and grabbing him trying to break away from his grip on me. In the process, we fell on the ground and I think I attempted to kick him but failed to connect. When he got up, he put up his hands like some kind of wannabe boxer which infuriated me even more. So I shouted at him “you want to fight? Come lets do it!” I started walking towards him and he started backing away. I chased him around his taxi.
Two security guards from my condo then appeared. I believe they called the police and the police came and took down our particulars. One of the police then asked if I had tried another one of my cards for the fare. I gave him another card and viola! it worked! So the police ask me to go and I stumbled back home.
The next day, I felt some bruises on my arm and pain in my leg. I also felt pretty stupid about the whole incident and felt that I had over-reacted. A few days later, I got a call from an investigative officer from the Police. He told me to go down to the police station. So I went down the next day.
So here’s the first piece of advice. You should be very careful about what you say during this first meeting with the investigating officer. As he would be taking your statement and this officer will then submit the statement and his report to the public prosecutor who will determine what to do with the case based on the statement.
So the police told me that the taxi driver had made a police report about me and that I had punched him several times and kicked him. I told the police immediately that I don’t recall punching him several times. This was when he said there were witnesses which I assumed was the security guard. So in the back of my mind I am thinking ‘maybe I had really punched him but had forgotten’. I then asked the police ‘surely his injury is not that serious?’ To which he replied to say that ‘it was pretty serious. He had bruises on his back and that he couldn’t drive his taxi and he had to park his taxi somewhere and went to the hospital. He was also given several days of mc.”
Ok so at this point I felt really bad. This shouldn’t have happened. So the taxi driver would probably have a lost of income because of this ‘fight’. By the way this is kind of the only fight that I had ever had in my entire life.
I told the police officer if I can pay for his medical bills and also volunteered to pay for any lost income that he might have due to his injury. I also asked the police officer to convey my deepest apologies. I gave 100 dollars to the police officer to pay for his medical bill of 90 dollars.
So I didn’t hear from the officer until two months later. He told me once again to go down to the police station. I tried to find out on the phone if it was good or bad news but he refused to tell me and said let’s talk when you are at the station. My immediate reaction was that the taxi driver probably wanted more money as a kind of compensation.
So when I reached the station the investigating officer told me that I was basically being charged with ‘voluntarily causing hurt’ and that I had to appear in court. I was a little taken aback as I thought this would be a simple case of a warning. I spent the next one week researching on cases and reading up on this charge of voluntarily causing hurt. Basically this charge carries a fine of up to 5k or imprisonment of up to two years.
After reading up on many previous cases, I was pretty certain that a fine would be the most likely outcome. And I was hoping for a fine of 1-2k. On the day of the court, two friends accompanied me. It was kind of nerve wrecking and even on the way I was still unsure if I should plead guilty. I mean I definitely caused him hurt but I really don’t recall punching him several times and kicking him. But at the same time, if this charge is going to be a fine of 1-2k, then I would prefer to pay the fine and then just get on with my life as I had spent a considerable amount of time worrying about this. And I really want to just get this over with.
So finally I decided to plead guilty with mitigating factors. The court itself was a lot more chaotic than I had imagined. Many people who are charged would be seated behind with their family and friends. There were so many people that there wasn’t even enough seats. And there were lawyers, policemen, and a lot of people just walking in and out at any point.
When it was your turn, they would call your name and you have to basically say if you want to plead guilty or claim trial. It was a really long wait. More than two hours before it was my turn. I told the court I wanted to plead guilty with mitigation factors. At this point, the prosecution said they are not ready and ask the case to be adjourned. I asked why and the public prosecutor said he needed more time to speak to the taxi driver. He also suggested to me that he was going to ask for custodian sentence. I then ask what is a custodian sentence. (By the way, you actually speak through someone in court and you don’t actually directly address the judge). It feels kind of weird that whatever is said is being ‘channeled’ through someone else, in this case was a lady in her 30s.
Anyway the judge replied that a custodian sentence means imprisonment. I was taken aback and the judge suggested that I seek legal advice. So now this changes the whole game. Imprisonment? Wow. I swear the taxi driver is definitely not even seriously hurt. Maybe he suffered from the fall. I am pretty sure I didn’t really punch him anywhere hard. Where the heck did this imprisonment thing come from?
I started worrying all over again and I messaged a lawyer friend to ask her advice. She recommended a couple of criminal lawyer friends to me. I also went to speak with a lawyer about the case. The lawyer basically told me that If I wanted to avoid imprisonment, I should fight the case because If I had pleaded guilty, and the prosecution was to recommend custodian sentence, it is quite likely to result in imprisonment. So I asked him what are the chances of me getting a fine and not having to go to jail? He said he can’t be sure until he ask for the medical report and if there were any eye witnesses. He asked if I remembered punching him and I told him straight I honestly can’t be sure. We were grabbing each other and it was likely I beat away his hand while trying to get free.
Then I asked the lawyer what was his fees and he quoted me 10k. The first thing that came to my mind was that it was a tad too much. Especially for something that I feel might not make much of a difference in the end.
I spent the next few days thinking through and reading even more cases and lists of mitigating factors. Honestly, I felt that my mitigating factors were pretty strong. First time offender, no history of violence, provoked by him pulling me first, and exhibiting remorse by compensating him for his medical bills and also offering to pay for any lost income. And his injuries are also not very serious. Also, the circumstances leading up to the ‘fight’ was unfortunate and was more of a misunderstanding. And this could all have been avoided if I had paid him using my other card while in the taxi.
After weighing all the pros and cons, I have decided to just ‘man up’ and take whatever punishment that is to come. I still feel an imprisonment is way too heavy for this offense. But if the court decides this, then I will take it. I think I am expecting a sentence possibly between 2 weeks to 4 weeks. In Singapore, prisoners will serve 2/3 of a sentence so meaning I will possibly be out in one week plus to three weeks. I feel this is probably the worst case scenario. Would it be worth it to avoid jail for 10k? I personally feel it’s not. Of course there are other issues such as stigma and loss of income etc. But honestly, I really don’t think hiring a lawyer in this case is going to affect the whole sentencing all that much. I am intending to write out my own mitigation plea. And I am already mentally prepared to go to jail. I think it’s all about the mindset. If we are so fearful and worried about jail, then we will probably pursue all avenues to avoid it. and when in it, it will probably be a much worse experience.
However, if we have a positive mindset to it, then the whole experience might not be that bad. I mean I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. This is probably a life experience that I might have to go through. I realize in my life recently I hadn’t exactly been very appreciative of things around me. Work, Family, even relaxation. It’s all become a bit of a routine for me. So I think this is a good chance for me to just reboot my life and refocus on what life is about and what is truly important in life.
Also I may get to meet new interesting people that I would never have a chance to normally meet. And to go through a lifestyle for a short period that most people won’t have a chance to go through.
And last and not the least, I did something wrong. And in life, there is such a thing as karma. so man up and stop whining.