What is an arrest warrant?

By Last Updated: July 25, 2022

In Canada, there are different types of warrants that can be issued by the court for your arrest including an arrest warrant, a bench warrant, a bench warrant to hold, and a telewarrant.

Arrest Warrants

What is an arrest warrantAn arrest warrant is a document that is endorsed by the court which identifies the name of an accused, the offence that the accused is alleged to have committed, and which authorizes the police to arrest the accused and bring him or her before the court.

Before a warrant for your arrest can be issued, an Information (a document that officially charges you with a crime) must be sworn by a peace officer and presented to a justice or judge. It is on the basis of the Information that a warrant for your arrest can be issued. A warrant for your arrest will be issued when a justice of the peace or a judge has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that you have committed a crime and that it is in the best interests of the public for you to be arrested and brought into custody.

A justice or judge will be justified in issuing a warrant when he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that you have commit a crime and there are also grounds to believe that :

  • You will not come to court without the warrant;
  • You need to be arrested in order to secure evidence related to the offence;
  • Your arrest is necessary to prevent the continuation or repeat of an offence;
  • Your arrest is necessary to prevent you from committing a new offence; or,
  • You need to be brought in by the authorities to establish your identity.

Once a warrant for your arrest has been issued, the police within the jurisdiction of the court that issued the warrant will be allowed to seek you out and bring you into custody if they find you.

Bench Warrants

Another type of arrest warrant is a bench warrant. A bench warrant is an arrest warrant that is issued by a justice or judge when you fail to appear in court for your criminal matter. This type of warrant will often be issued when you have failed to appear in court as directed by a summons, a promise to appear, an undertaking or recognizance. Like an arrest warrant, a bench warrant authorizes the police within your jurisdiction to arrest you and to hold you in custody until you can be brought before the court.

If you have failed to appear for your court date, in some cases the court may be gracious enough not to immediately command your arrest and instead will  issue a bench warrant to hold for your arrest. When a warrant to hold is issued it means that if you show up for your next court appearance, the warrant for your arrest be vacated and you will not be taken into custody.


While a peace officer will typically have to appear before a justice of the peace or judge to obtain a warrant for your arrest, in some circumstances it is possible for the police to obtain a warrant over the phone. This type of warrant is called a telewarrant. A telewarrant can be granted when a police officer communicates with a justice or judge by some means of telecommunication, and informs them that there are reasonable grounds to believe that your have commit an indictable offence. However, in order for the police to obtain a telewarrant, they will also need to show that it would be impractical for them to personally appear before the justice to obtain the warrant. For example, it will be impractical for a police officer to obtain a warrant in person when there is no justice of the peace or judge available in their town at the time that the warrant is required, but waiting or travelling in order to obtain the warrant will cause them to lose the accused or evidence of the offence.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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