How to Find Out If There Is a Warrant for My Arrest

How to Find Out If There Is a Warrant for My Arrest

An arrest warrant in your name from an outstanding criminal or misdemeanor charge in Ontario means that a police officer or any other law enforcement person can arrest you.

Sometimes, however, arrest warrants are issued by the courts without the alleged perpetrator realizing they’ve done anything wrong. You don’t receive a phone call, letter, email or text message to inform you of the arrest warrant — so, how do you find out if one has been issued?

Tread carefully if you think an arrest warrant may have been issued as it can land you in an uncomfortable situation …

What is an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant is a legal document issued by the Ontario courts if the police can demonstrate reasonable grounds that a person has committed a criminal offence and/or failed to comply with bail conditions.

The warrant includes the following key information:

  • The name of the suspect
  • The alleged criminal offence committed
  • Authorization for the police to arrest the suspect

To obtain a warrant, an appeal is made to the court via a sworn document that identifies the offence and requests that a justice of the peace or a judge reviews the case and issues the warrant.

If a judge believes that a suspect will appear before the court with an appearance notice, an arrest warrant may be unnecessary.

Three ways to find out about an arrest warrant

If an arrest warrant is out in your name, you can be arrested on the spot if you run into law enforcement. So, you’ll want to consider your steps very carefully if you think there is a chance that you have been observed committing a criminal offence.

Being arrested when you are unprepared can be extremely distressing, especially if it is your first brush with the law in Ontario.

People generally discover an arrest warrant in their name in one of the following three ways:

1.     Checking at the local police station

This is the most direct way but can be risky unless your criminal defence lawyer accompanies you to the station.

If an arrest warrant has been issued, you run the risk of being arrested immediately by a police officer. However, provided that the alleged offence is not too serious, you may be released again on a promise to appear in court at a certain date/time.

For more serious matters, you may be held in custody and need to appear before the court at a bail hearing.

2.   Check with the clerk at the criminal court

Another risky option is to walk into your local criminal court and simply ask the court clerk to check whether a warrant has been issued.

If there is a warrant out, the clerk will inform you what it’s for and may have you arrested by a sheriff or police officer present at the courthouse. You could then be held in custody.

3.     Ask a criminal defence lawyer to check on your behalf

The best and safest way to find out if an arrest warrant has been issued is to ask your criminal defence lawyer to check on your behalf.

Your lawyer can check at the police station or courthouse and gather the relevant information. From there, he/she can advise you on the recommended next steps to help you navigate Ontario’s criminal defence system.

When a criminal defence lawyer acts on your behalf, you can prepare yourself and avoid the shock of an unexpected and untimely arrest. Your lawyer will brief you on what to expect and how to act in a calmer, more stress-free way.

Can a suspect be arrested in Ontario for an offence committed elsewhere?

Most arrest warrants in Canada apply only in the province in which they are issued. In fact, some warrants even specify a geographic radius to which they apply. This details the maximum distance that law enforcement will travel to arrest a person.

For an alleged minor offence like trespassing or causing a disturbance, it is unlikely that law enforcement will put many resources into tracking the perpetrator down — they certainly won’t travel out of Ontario to arrest the suspect unless the offence is far more serious.

In some cases, a warrant issued in Ontario could be endorsed by a court in another province (or vice versa). This authorizes the police to arrest the suspect in that province.

For the most serious crimes, courts may issue a Canada-wide arrest warrant, empowering police officers anywhere in the country to arrest a suspect and hold them in custody.

Arrest warrants issued by a superior court or the court of appeal also usually apply nationwide.

What’s the difference between endorsed and unendorsed warrants?

Arrest warrants in Ontario can be endorsed or unendorsed.

An endorsed warrant has been signed by a Justice of the Peace and endorsed with the terms of release, such as no contact with certain individuals and a date to appear in court. If a suspect is arrested on an endorsed warrant, he/she can be released from custody by the police.

An unendorsed warrant has not been signed by a Justice of the Peace and has no such release information for law enforcement to follow. Therefore, the police must hold the suspect until he/she can appear before the court.

Other main types of warrants issued in Ontario

Besides an arrest warrant, there are three other main types of warrants issued in Ontario:

Bench warrant

A bench warrant is a legal document issued by a judge or justice and used in place of an arrest warrant when an accused person fails to appear for a court date, hearing or trial. The bench warrant authorizes the police to arrest and hold the accused in custody until the date of the court hearing.

Surety warrant

A surety is someone who helps a suspect obtain bail by guaranteeing that they won’t commit any further crimes, paying the bail amount and ensuring that the suspect appears in court for the hearing.

If a surety wants to release themselves from the commitment, he/she must apply to the court. The suspect may be asked to join the surety in a court appearance. This could lead to the suspect being arrested there and then but if the suspect does not appear, a surety warrant may be issued, empowering law enforcement to arrest the individual.


Telewarrants are arranged over the phone rather than by personal appearance in court — a rare type of warrant only issued in emergencies when authorities believe that a person has committed an indictable crime but cannot appear in court to obtain a standard arrest warrant.

If you want to find out if there is a warrant out for your arrest or need assistance with any other criminal matter, book a free consultation with David Anber’s Law Office. As experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will help you understand your legal options and avoid any unnecessary time in custody.

David Anber

David Anber

David Anber has been a trailblazing legal practitioner since 2006. His early entry into law practice during his studies marked the beginning of a distinguished career. As a member of both Ontario and Quebec’s bar associations, David excels in defending traffic and criminal cases across both provinces. David contributes to legal discourse through articles for the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa and the Criminal Lawyer’s Association of Ontario.