*2023 Results: Approx. 99% of Mark Zinck's clients avoided a criminal record (conviction) for charges of theft, fraud, assault, mischief and threats.

How to deal with an arrest warrant for outstanding criminal charges in Ontario, Canada

If there is a warrant out for your arrest this means that the police can (and will) legally take you into custody upon coming into contact with you. Most people who have outstanding warrants (new or old) for their arrest failed to appear for fingerprinting or a court appearance resulting in a bench warrant being issued for their arrest. If the warrant is endorsed the police have the authority to release the person again upon arrest. If the warrant is unendorsed the police are legally required to hold the accused and bring them before the court.

If you have a warrant out for your arrest you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to confirm the details of the warrant and arrange for you to surrender in a way that does not make the case against you worse and, hopefully, allows you to be re-released from custody while the charges are dealt with in court. If the accused is not present in Ontario sometimes arrangements can be made to deal with (possibly get rid of) the warrant/case remotely and without having to travel back. This also applies to those inside Ontario who may live far away from where the charges are (for example: charged in Toronto, but resides in Thunder Bay).

Length, scope, and the sharing of all Canadian arrest warrant information using the RCMP CPIC database.

Arrest warrants in Canada never expire. Once a warrant is issued it will remain outstanding until it is executed or rescinded by a judge or justice of the peace. A warrant will be entered into both the local police force’s computer database and the RCMP CPIC database. The CPIC database is accessible to all law enforcement agencies in Canada including all police forces and the CBSA. IRCC also have access to CPIC to look for outstanding warrants when determining immigration eligibility. The MTO can also access CPIC to connect a warrant with a suspect's known vehicle registration, licence plate, and driver's licence.

Warrants in CPIC are shared with all U.S. police forces, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. Access to CPIC is also provided to some international customs and law enforcement agencies, such as those in the UK, Australia, and other ally countries both through INTERPOL and directly.

How to know if there is a warrant out for your arrest.

If you ever failed to attend court for a criminal matter in Ontario, it is almost guaranteed that the court issued a bench warrant for your arrest. Most OCJ courts will issue a bench warrant if the accused does not show up for their first court appearance date or stops attending court after a few appearances. If you ever received a Form 9 Appearance Notice or a Form 10 Undertaking with a fingerprinting date and a court date, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest if you do not attend for fingerprints and/or the court date.

The vast majority of people with warrants out for their arrest in Ontario are in this position because they failed to show up for court. Some of these people may be unaware of the warrant because for many years they have ignored the issue or were willfully blind to it. They often become aware of the warrant upon coming in contact with law enforcement at a traffic stop, for an unrelated incident (domestic violence, shoplifting, fraud, dui etc.), or when attempting to cross the Canadian or U.S. Border by land or at the airport.

Those who want to confirm whether a warrant is out for their arrest or not can contact the police force they believe issued the warrant and ask. The police may be willing to give you this information over the phone, or they may require you to attend at the station in person. If you attend at the station and a warrant is discovered you will immediately be placed under arrest and possibly held in custody until your case is resolved. It is best to hire a lawyer to try to iron out this process in advance for you and arrange for your quick release.

How to find out if a warrant is out for your arrest without contacting the police directly.

You may be able to determine whether a warrant has been issued for your arrest by calling the clerk’s office (aka court support) of the Ontario Court of Justice at the courthouse where your case is at and asking them to run an ICON search for your name/dob/gender in their case database. Depending on the government employee who answers the phone, they may query you in the system to determine if a warrant was issued for someone matching your name/dob/gender.

OCJ court ICON computer searches may be incomplete and warrants issued prior to the implementation of the system approximately 25 years ago probably will not show up. People also sometimes share names and dates of birth so results could theoretically relate to someone else. This method of determining whether a warrant exists or not is therefore not 100% reliable.

Risk of being arrested at the courthouse

If the person attends the courthouse in person and asks them to conduct this search they do run the risk of being arrested if court staff believes a warrant was issued. Court support staff (the clerks) may notify the court police officers in the courthouse to arrest and hold you right there on the spot. You can easily be taken into custody at any courthouse in Ontario if a warrant is discovered in your presence.

Similar to calling the police to ask if there is a warrant out for you, it is better to have a lawyer make these inquiries on your behalf. A lawyer can arrange for the rearrest process to be conducted as easily as possible and protect you from saying or doing anything that will make the case against you even worse.

How to get rid of an arrest warrant: what you should do if you have a warrant out for your arrest in Ontario.

The best thing to do is hire a criminal defence lawyer in Ontario to make the necessary contact with the police, the courts, and the Crown Attorney on your behalf to:
  1. Determine whether there is a warrant for your arrest or not, whether it is endorsed or unendorsed, and what options are available if any for surrendering remotely or through counsel;

  2. Make arrangements for you to surrender in person if necessary or otherwise comply with release terms remotely with the assistance of counsel (fingerprinting, court dates, etc.);

  3. Arrange for a quick release or bail plan to ensure you are released from custody as soon as possible and on the least restrictive conditions as possible.
If you wait for the police to randomly come in contact with you and arrest you at the roadside, your doorstep, or at the border you will most likely be held in custody and may not get bail. The court may not believe that you will show up in the future since you failed to attend previously. The best thing you can do is to proactively demonstrate that you are available and want to deal with the warrant the proper way despite your history of failing to comply.

The police and courts do not want to release a person who will once again disappear. The solution? Either refuse bail and continue to hold them in jail until their matter is resolved or release them on very strict conditions that may require them to stay with “live in” sureties (to supervise you), house arrest, curfews, restrictions on internet use and communication, move out of their home, etc. If you have a warrant we can help you act to resolve it now and possibly avoid these problems.

Those who have evaded arrest for a lengthy period of time are not in the position of having credibility with the police and bail courts, especially if they have been rearrested non-voluntarily. If you wait until you happen to come into contact with the police to be arrested it will almost always make things much worse.

If you have an outstanding warrant, the best thing to do is hire a lawyer to arrange your surrender, release plan, and move the matter forward towards a resolution or trial.

Just because you have evaded police or failed to respond to charges does not automatically mean you will be sentenced to a criminal record or jail if you turn yourself in and deal with the charges in the right way moving forward. Canada’s criminal justice system places substantial weight on rehabilitation and restorative justice.

There is an understanding that some people go through “windows of time” where they may run away from and avoid responsibility/difficult situations. Everybody is human and we all make mistakes. Perhaps you went through a difficult time like a divorce, death of a loved one, drug or alcohol problem, medical issue, etc. These are all strong mitigating factors.

Defence lawyers offer mitigating factors not as an excuse, but an explanation of the inappropriate (illegal) behaviour. If you have an outstanding warrant your defence lawyer will want to convince the Crown and court that you realize you should not have avoided the police and have proven your ability to learn from and correct the mistakes you made in the past. As such, the risks of releasing you back into the community with relatively lenient conditions are minimal since you are unlikely to reoffend.

What if I have a warrant for my arrest in Ontario but am not physically present in Ontario or otherwise live far away from where the charges were laid? Do I have to travel back there to deal with the warrant and charges?

Some people with outstanding warrants can be dealt with entirely at court by their lawyer whereas others will have to be fingerprinted. If you have not yet been fingerprinted you may have to attend in person in Ontario for this to happen, but sometimes arrangements can be made for you to be fingerprinted in your home province. This can also apply to those inside Ontario but who still live very far away from the charging jurisdiction (ie. charged in the GTA but resides in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, etc.).

If you are not in Ontario a lawyer may be able to make arrangements with the charging police force to have you surrender in your home jurisdiction and possibly even be fingerprinted there (if necessary). In some cases it may be possible for the accused to have the lawyer deal with the charges without them travelling back to Ontario to attend court or the police station in person, but not always.

Each police force and jurisdiction is different but some will do the accused a “favour” and allow them to be fingerprinted there without travelling back to Ontario (or from very far within Ontario). Such leniency is a privilege not a right and is only extended assuming the person is not still running from the law and genuinely now wants to deal with the warrant and underlying charges. Such leniency is more likely to be available in cases where the accused is still somewhere in Ontario or Canada, but some U.S. jurisdictions will also assist if the person is in the USA.

Having your lawyer attend court on your behalf (without you being there) in Ontario is a routine process whether a warrant was previously issued or not.

Lawyers and court agents in Ontario routinely attend court on behalf of their clients, both with and without signed designations, so assuming the accused is properly fingerprinted and identified it often does not matter whether they are physically present or not. In all cases this is of course up to the Judge but currently in 2023 remote court appearances are the norm. In fact, most Ontario courts encourage accused and counsel to appear in court virtually via Zoom if possible to do so.

If there is a warrant out for my arrest does this mean the police are actively looking for me?

For regular warrants and bench warrants, whether the police will actively try to come find you really depends on the case and the officer in charge of it. Generally speaking, those wanted for violent crimes or who are considered a danger to the community or themselves are the first priority for rearrest. Those who are charged with property offences (shoplifting, theft, fraud, mischief, etc) may not be as actively pursued but will be rearrested upon coming into contact with law enforcement.

In smaller communities it may be more likely that the police will arrest someone with a warrant for property offences as it is easier for them to keep track of and know the population in smaller communities. In big cities like Toronto and Ottawa police are less likely to recognize any given individual as having a warrant absent special circumstances that make the case unique.

Most people with a known phone number will know if the police are actively looking for them because they will often receive calls from the police. Since most police officers in Ontario call from Unknown/Blocked numbers, and such calls are sometimes left unanswered, the accused may be unaware the police are looking for them if they don’t have or are not actively checking their voicemail. Most police officers will leave a message if there is no answer.

Discretionary bench warrants

Warrants, bench warrants, and first-instance warrants should not be confused with “discretionary bench warrants” (aka bench warrants with discretion). If it is a discretionary bench warrant then you would still have an upcoming court date and the police would not be searching for you because of the warrant alone.

Discretionary bench warrants are a normal part of the adjournment process in Ontario courts and lawyers appear on them all the time, but if they lose contact with their client or nobody shows up to court a straight “bench warrant” will eventually be issued which may lead to the police actively looking to find and arrest you.

Evading arrest: the consequences of ignoring an outstanding arrest warrant and remaining a wanted person.

If you have a warrant out for your arrest you should tape steps to get rid of it immediately. Those who evade the police are less likely to be released on bail when they are finally arrested on their warrants. If a person has a history of disobeying court orders (such as to attend court), the court may be reluctant to grant them bail or impose bail conditions that are extremely harsh (curfews, no internet access, house arrest, etc.) if they do get bail.

Being on the lam, or wanted, for an extended period of time could also be seen as an aggravating factor by the courts in sentencing. Most people who have warrants for failure to attend court will also face additional criminal charges for non-attendance, such as failure to comply with the conditions of an undertaking, release order or probation order.

If you are aware of an existing warrant or think there may be one, you are better off just getting it over with and properly dealing with it now. Some people feel emotionally trapped and think they have dug themselves into a hole they can’t get out of by ignoring the warrant. A lot of these cases are much easier to successfully resolve than people think. Sometimes we can get rid of the warrant and resolve the entire case without the person even having to travel back to Ontario.

This is much better than having to live your life always worrying about being caught and arrested for something that happened in the past. Having to always worry about getting a knock on the door, a phone call from an Unknown number (police), being pulled aside by customs, or otherwise being caught and arrested while still at large is, in some cases, worse than the enevitable punishment itself if they are ultimately found guilty.

I think I may have a warrant. How much is it to hire a lawyer to make arrangements and assist me in dealing with this in the best possible way?

If you think or know there is a warrant for your arrest in Ontario give us a call now for a free no-obligation quote. We can only take calls from potential clients however so do not call us unless you are looking to hire a lawyer to assist you (legally), which you should if you can afford to do so. We normally charge a flat fee of $500 to confirm whether a warrant exists and make arrangements to surrender in person or deal with it remotely. This fee is then put towards your legal fees should you hire us to represent you in defending the charges.

It is in your best interest to properly deal with this now. If handled correctly this process can be much easier and less painful than most people think so give us a call today to discuss your best options.

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Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on criminal law protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record and conviction.

    call now: 647-228-5969


Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance about avoiding jail and/or a criminal record, employment background checks, IRCC/immigration applications and status, or travel to the U.S. in the future. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed.

We only can respond to calls and emails relating to current Ontario criminal cases. Please see our FAQ for a listing of the courthouses we service.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending a criminal case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.

*2023 Results: the percentage of 99% of clients avoiding a criminal record (conviction) stated on this page is based solely on Lawyer Mark Zinck's personal representation of approximately 2000 criminal defence case clients as of the year 2023. Past results are not necessarily an indication of future results.


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   Criminal Information:

   We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice and services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel