When can the police lawfully arrest me?

By Last Updated: March 16, 2022

Officer Arresting Man For DUI While High on Drugs

In Canada, the police can arrest you both with a warrant and without a warrant.

Arrest with a warrant:

When the police are arresting you with a warrant, it means that they have already gone through the preliminary process of laying an information or of formally charging you with an offence before a justice of the peace or a judge. After laying the information, they have also successfully made an application for a warrant for your arrest, and have thereby been authorized to find you and bring you into custody. To learn more about this process, see our “What is a warrant?” section. So long as the police have been granted a warrant and have reason to believe that you are the person named in the warrant, they can arrest you.

Arrest without a warrant:

In Canada, the police can lawfully arrest you without a warrant. However, the circumstances in which the police may arrest you without warrant are strictly defined in Canadian law. Specifically, there are four main circumstances in which a police officer would be justified arresting you without a warrant:

  1. If they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a crime;
  2. If they have reasonable grounds to believe that you are about to commit a crime;
  3. If they have reasonable grounds to believe that you are in the process of committing a crime; and,
  4. If they have not been personally granted a warrant to arrest you, but they have reasonable grounds to believe that there currently is a warrant for your arrest.

While police officers have the right to arrest you without a warrant in the situations named above, arresting a person without a warrant is an extraordinary power granted to the police that also requires that they meet four additional criteria for that arrest to be lawful. Specifically, in addition to having reasonable grounds to believe that you are somehow involved in a crime, the police must also have reasonable grounds to believe that the arrest is necessary for one of the following reasons:

  1. To establish the identity of the person being arrested;
  2. To secure or preserve evidence related to the offence;
  3. To prevent the continuation or repeat of the offence, or to prevent the commission of another offence; or
  4. Because they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person will not comply with an undertaking or appearance notice compelling them to attend court.

If you are arrested in a circumstance that falls outside of those just mentioned, it may be the case that there has been a violation of your Charter rights that can be used in building your defence. If you have been arrested recently, contact one of our defence lawyers immediately. Our skilled lawyers will be able to thoroughly review the circumstances of your arrest, identify any missteps by the police, and effectively use these police errors to mount a full and effective defence for you.

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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