If there is an arrest warrant out in your name due to a criminal or misdemeanor charge that has not been addressed, it means that any law enforcement officer in the province (or, in some cases, anywhere in Canada) can arrest you.

You firstly need to be aware of it so that you can start thinking about hiring the right legal representation to defend you.

However, you are not sent a letter through the mail about this. So, how do you find out if there is a warrant out for your arrest?

Most common ways to find out about arrest warrants

Go to your local police station

The most direct way to find out if there is a warrant for your arrest is to go to a police station and ask.

If a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you may be arrested and released on a promise to appear. Alternatively, you may be held in custody until you are brought before the court and released on bail (depending on the crime you are accused of committing).

It is usually inadvisable to go down this path unless you are accompanied by a criminal defence lawyer, who will be able to advise you how to handle the situation if an arrest warrant has been issued.

Contact the criminal court clerk

Your local criminal court clerk will be able to tell you if a warrant has been issued for your arrest – and for what charge.

However, this is another dangerous move unless you are accompanied by your lawyer. You can be arrested and brought into custody by a sheriff or police officer at the courthouse.

Hire a criminal defence lawyer to check

A criminal defence lawyer can check on your behalf whether an arrest warrant has been issued. Your lawyer can not only find out the pertinent information but can then guide you if there is an arrest warrant in your name.

In the worst cases scenario with arrest warrants, you are arrested on the spot when you are least prepared for it. When a criminal defence lawyer acts on your behalf, you can prepare yourself for what lies ahead and handle the process in a calmer, more stress-free manner.

What if my arrest warrant is from a different province?

In the majority of cases, an arrest warrant only applies to the province in which it is issued. So, only police officers from Ontario can arrest you with an arrest warrant issued in Ontario.

However, with more serious crimes, a Canada-wide arrest warrant may be issued. This means that you can be arrested by police officers anywhere in the country.

If a superior court or the court of appeal issues an arrest warrant, this also usually means that police officers anywhere in Canada can bring you into custody.

In some cases, a warrant issued by a provincial authority is endorsed by the court in another province, authorizing law enforcement officials from that province to arrest the subject of the warrant.

Some warrants may include a geographical radius, specifying the maximum distance that the police will travel to arrest a person. This is generally dependent upon the gravity of the alleged crime committed.

What types of warrants are there in Ottawa, Ontario?

Arrest warrants are just one type of warrant. There are three others. Let’s take a quick look at each type.

An arrest warrant is a legal document issued by the court, identifying the name of the accused, the alleged criminal offence committed, and the authorization of the police officer to arrest the accused.

These warrants are usually requested when the police have reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed a criminal offence and failed to comply with bail conditions.

The authorities appeal to the court with a sworn document identifying the offence and request that a justice of the peace or a judge reviews the case and issue a warrant.

In some cases, if the judge believes that you will appear before the court with an appearance notice, an arrest warrant may not be deemed necessary.

A bench warrant is a legal document that may be used in place of an arrest warrant.

It is issued by a judge or justice for a person who fails to appear for a court date, hearing, or trial (for example, with a promise to appear, summons or undertaking).

This document may authorize the police to arrest and hold you in custody until the date of the court hearing – or simply to hold you in custody without arresting you.

“Surety” is the term used when someone helps you obtain bail by guaranteeing that you won’t commit any further crimes, arranging payment of the bail amount, and ensuring that you appear for your court hearing.

A surety may want to release themselves from the arrangement by applying to the court. You may be asked to accompany the surety to the court appearance and, upon release of the surety agreement, you will be arrested.

If you fail to appear, a surety warrant may be issued, which can result in your immediate arrest.

Telewarrants are warrants arranged over the phone rather than by an in-person appearance in court.

These are rare but may be issued where the authorities have probable grounds to believe that a person has committed an indictable crime but it is impractical to appear in court to obtain the warrant.

When an arrest warrant is issued, an experienced criminal defence lawyer can help you navigate the legal processes concerning the warrant so that you avoid unnecessary time in custody – as well as building a defence for the underlying charges.

If you expect a warrant to be issued in the near future, we can also advise you on the steps you need to take when that happens.

Contact an experienced criminal lawyer at Affordable Defence in Ottawa for a free case evaluation.