Warrants are woven into the fabric of the Canadian criminal justice system to ensure the proper administration of law and justice. These legal documents enable law enforcement officials to, amongst other things, search and seize evidence and arrest individuals under certain circumstances. Where an arrest is warranted, it should always be done in a manner that upholds the rule of law and protects individual rights.
Warrants are predominantly governed by section 487 of the Criminal Code of Canada. A warrant is an authorization issued by a judge to law enforcement officials to do or not do something related to a criminal investigation. For example, a warrant can grant law enforcement officials the legal authority to take individuals into custody, search for and seize evidence, and present individuals before the appropriate legal authorities.
What Are the Different Types of Warrants in Canada?
There are four types of warrants in Canada:
search warrants; and
Each serves a specific purpose and is governed by different sections of the Canadian Criminal Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, only two types of warrants give the police the power to arrest a person: arrest warrants and bench warrants.
Additional to these main types of warrants are telewarrants. This type of warrant can be seen as another method of obtaining one of the main types of warrants, not as a type in and of itself. A telewarrant is applied for remotely, usually over the phone, when it is impractical for an officer to appear before a justice to obtain a conventional warrant.
It can be invoked if there are reasonable grounds to believe an indictable offence has been committed and obtaining a warrant in person would be unfeasible because, for example, there is no immediate access to a judge or there is a risk of losing evidence or the accused. In other words, you can get any of the four types of main warrants over the phone as a telewarrant.
Let’s look at each main type of warrant in more detail.
An arrest warrant is issued when the police have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a criminal offense or if it is reasonably believed that you:
will refuse to come to court without a warrant;
will have to be arrested to secure evidence about a specific offense;
need to be arrested to prevent you from committing a new offense; or
must be brought in to establish your identity.
How exactly does an arrest warrant work in Canada? First, the warrant must be reviewed and authorized by a judge or justice of the peace. It can be executed anywhere in Canada and remains in force until it is either executed, a charge is laid, or you have remedied the situation.
The legal implications of an arrest warrant include the potential for arrest at any time and place and the possibility of being held in custody until the trial or court hearing. When an arrest warrant is executed, you are typically taken into custody by the police. If there is a warrant out for your arrest, it is in your best interest to address it promptly by contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you understand the situation and plan for a resolution.
What is a bench warrant, and when is it issued in Canada? In the Canadian legal system, a judge issues a bench warrant to authorize the arrest of an individual for not appearing in court or complying with a court order. You cannot be arrested with a bench warrant if you are accused of a crime, only if you are accused of disobeying a court rule or order.
The consequences of a bench warrant include the possibility of being arrested at any time by law enforcement officers. You may be held in custody until brought before a judge if arrested. To resolve a bench warrant, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review your case and prepare an argument for the judge to remove the warrant.
Resolving a bench warrant may still involve appearing before the judge, and in some cases, posting bail. Taking a bench warrant seriously is important, as ignoring it can lead to additional charges and legal complications.
Canadian criminal law is concerned with balancing society’s interest in preventing and punishing harm with preserving respect for the liberty and privacy rights of individuals. This tension is particularly relevant when the police wish to search a person or location. To do this, they need a search warrant. The issuance of search warrants is governed by section 8 of the Canadian Charter, which protects individuals against unreasonable search and seizure.
It is important to know that you cannot be arrested on the strength of a search warrant. A judge or justice of the peace issues a search warrant to authorize law enforcement to conduct a search of a specific location for evidence related to a crime. The criteria for issuing a search warrant include the requirement for the justice to be satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the place to be searched contains evidence related to an offense. The process for obtaining a search warrant involves three stages:
conferring jurisdiction upon a justice;
the justice’s decision to grant the warrant; and
the issuance of the warrant for the search.
When a search warrant is executed, it allows for a one-time entry into the specified venue, and the search duration remains valid until the officers complete their search and exit. Officers must immediately vacate the premises after completing their search, and if they need to revisit, they will require new permission.
What is a search warrant in Canada used for? The warrant allows for the seizure of physical items such as electronic devices, vehicles, blood samples, and other specified items, and it must be executed within a reasonable period after its issue, often on the same day of issuance. Officers can also conduct non-specifically authorized searches if necessary for their safety during the execution of a search warrant.
The legal implications of a search warrant include authorizing law enforcement to conduct a search and seizure of evidence related to a crime. However, there are limitations: officers must adhere to the specific scope and details outlined in the warrant. The execution of a search warrant is a serious matter, and you have the right to seek legal counsel if you believe your rights have been infringed upon during the execution of a search warrant.
Witness warrants play a crucial role in the justice system because they help ensure that all relevant evidence is presented to court. The primary purpose of a witness warrant is to secure the appearance of a witness in court to provide evidence. They are particularly significant in cases where a witness may be reluctant or fearful to testify or in situations where the witness might attempt to evade their duty to testify.
Witness warrants can be issued under various circumstances, including:
When a witness has been duly summoned, but failed to attend court.
When there’s reasonable ground to believe that a witness, even if summoned, might not attend court.
When it’s considered to be in the best interest of justice.
Before issuing a witness warrant, a judge must be satisfied that:
The individual is likely to give evidence that is material to a proceeding, either ongoing or anticipated.
It’s probable that the individual will not attend court to give evidence without a warrant.
In order to obtain a witness warrant, an application must be made to a judge. This application should demonstrate the necessity of the individual’s testimony and the likelihood that they won’t appear in court without a warrant.
A surety warrant is not issued directly by the court for your arrest. Instead, it arises indirectly due to the actions of the person you signed surety for and who was, as a result, released on bail. It’s a type of warrant issued by Canadian courts when a person who has acted as a surety (you) for an accused (the person you signed surety for) wishes to be relieved of their responsibilities. A surety you agree to supervise an accused person released on bail and ensure they comply with their bail conditions. The surety could be financially liable if the accused fails to follow these conditions.
The role of a surety warrant in the Canadian legal system is to enforce the obligations of a surety and maintain the integrity of the bail system. When you feel you can no longer fulfill their responsibilities as a surety — perhaps due to the accused not following the bail conditions or because your circumstances have changed — you can approach the court to be relieved of your duties.
In these cases, the court may issue a surety warrant for the arrest of the accused. This ensures that the accused is brought back into custody while the court decides whether to release them again, either on the same bail conditions with a different surety or on different conditions.
The use of surety warrants underscores the seriousness of the responsibilities assumed by a surety and reinforces the importance of bail conditions. It serves as a mechanism to uphold the rule of law and maintain public confidence in the justice system.
Consult An Experienced Lawyer
Discuss your case with an experienced criminal lawyer and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Are There Different Categories of Search Warrants in Canadian Law?
Before we conclude this section, it’s worth noting that in addition to the four types of warrants discussed above, there are also a number of special search warrants for very particular situations or crimes. We list them briefly below:
Section 11 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act Warrant: This is similar to conventional warrants but specifically for searching for drugs. It requires sworn information demonstrating reasonable and probable grounds and can be executed after 9PM, unlike conventional warrants. It also allows body searches of individuals found within the search area.
Proceeds Warrant: This type of warrant is used to seize alleged proceeds of crime.
Computer Warrant (s. 487(2.1) of the Criminal Code): This warrant is required to seize a computer, with an option to copy the hard drive instead of seizure.
Production Orders (s. 487.011 and .012 of the Criminal Code): Orders a company to produce documents required for investigation.
Beeper Tracking Warrant: This warrant is used specifically to monitor a person’s movement using a beeper tracker.
Dial Number Recording Warrant: This warrant allows monitoring of numbers dialled from a telephone.
General Technology Warrant (s. 487.01 of the Criminal Code): Technology warrants authorizes the use of new investigative technologies that invade privacy.
Wiretap Warrants (ss. 185-189 of the Criminal Code): These are judicial authorizations that permit law enforcement to intercept private communications.
Blood Warrant (s. 320.29 (1) of the Criminal Code): This warrant is used to obtain blood samples, often for blood alcohol level testing.
DNA Warrant (s, 47.04 of the Criminal Code): DNA warrants permit the collection of DNA samples from individuals.
Bodily Impression Warrant: These warrants are obtained for impressions like dental impressions.
Do All Warrants Require Probable Cause in the Canadian Legal System?
Section 8 of the Charter provides that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. This means that any search conducted by law enforcement must be reasonable.
A search without a warrant is, therefore, presumed to be unreasonable unless it can be justified by law enforcement. Importantly, the police cannot simply stop and search an individual without reasonable grounds or probable cause to believe that the person has been involved in a crime.
Can the Police Search You Without a Warrant?
The legal framework governing searches without a warrant is based on key constitutional principles and relevant legislation, including the Canadian Charter and the Criminal Code. The decisions of Canadian courts further shape this framework.
However, the Criminal Code establishes some instances where warrantless searches are permissible. For example, section 494 allows for a citizen to be arrested without a warrant under certain conditions, which may also involve a search. Moreover, Canadian courts have established principles regarding when police can conduct warrantless searches. These include:
Search Incident to Arrest: If you are lawfully arrested, the police have the authority to search your person and your immediate surroundings for evidence related to the offence for which you were arrested. This is to ensure officer safety and preserve evidence.
Searches by Consent: A warrant isn’t required if you voluntarily consent to a search. However, the consent must be informed, meaning you must understand what you are consenting to.
Exigent Circumstances: In situations where there is an immediate risk to public safety or a risk of evidence being destroyed, the police may conduct a warrantless search.
Plain View Doctrine: If evidence is clearly visible, the police do not need a warrant to seize it.
However, these principles are subject to interpretation and application by the courts, and the specifics can vary depending on the circumstances of each case. It is important to note that a warrantless search is prima facie unreasonable, and the Crown has the burden of proving the reasonableness of the search on a balance of probabilities.
When evaluating the strength of your case, your criminal defense lawyer must consider whether the police can justify their warrantless search by appealing to one of the four exceptions to the rule that they may not search a private area without a warrant.
In all cases, it’s important to note that any evidence obtained through an unreasonable search may be excluded from trial under section 24(2) of the Charter. As always, seeking legal advice when dealing with these issues is recommended.
What to Do if There is a Warrant for My Arrest?
If you discover a warrant for your arrest, it’s crucial to take immediate steps to address the situation and protect your legal rights. Here are some steps you should consider:
Seek Legal Counsel
The first action you should take is to consult with a lawyer. Legal professionals have the experience and knowledge to guide you through the process of addressing a warrant. Do not ignore the issues as that can lead to further complications.
Understand the Warrant
Understand the nature of the warrant issued against you. This includes knowing why the warrant was issued, the allegations or charges involved, and the jurisdiction of the warrant. A lawyer can help you understand these details.
Surrender to Authorities
Depending on the nature of the warrant, you may need to surrender yourself to the police. However, this should be done under your lawyer’s guidance, who can coordinate with the authorities to arrange your surrender. This can also help ensure the process is conducted fairly and your rights are protected.
Prepare for Court Appearance
After surrendering to the police, you’ll likely be required to appear before a court. Your lawyer can help you prepare for this appearance by advising you on what to expect, how to conduct yourself, and how to respond to questions.
Address the Warrant
Finally, with your lawyer’s assistance, you should address the underlying issues that led to the issuance of the warrant. This could involve contesting the charges, negotiating a plea deal, or other legal strategies that your lawyer is best placed to advise you on.
Every person’s situation is different, and these steps may not apply or may need to be altered depending on your specific circumstances. Always consult with a legal professional before taking action.
Moreover, understanding your rights is crucial when dealing with warrant-related issues. For instance, under the Canadian Charter, you have the right to be informed promptly of the reasons for your arrest, the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, and the right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Lawyer Today
Facing a warrant can be stressful and intimidating, but with the right legal advice and approach, you can navigate the process and protect your rights. Pyzer Criminal Lawyers will fight for your rights utilizing their extensive knowledge and experience in the legal system to strategize the best possible defense for your case.
Call us today at (416) 658-1818 for a free case evaluation by seasoned criminal defense attorneys, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when needed.
Legal Review By:
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan Pyzer, B.A., L.L.B, distinguished McGill University and University of Western Ontario alumnus, is a dedicated criminal defence lawyer throughout Ontario. Co-founder of Kostman & Pyzer, Barristers, he focuses on defending individual rights.