Simplified Chinese | Traditional Chinese | French | Punjabi | Spanish | Vietnamese

Find out how to:


If a police officer determines that an alleged crime took place, the police may apprehend a suspect or obtain a warrant for his or her arrest.

Police Powers of Arrest

In Canada, police are only able to exercise the special power they have to make arrests (to take persons into custody) under very specific conditions. These police powers of arrest are primarily governed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code of Canada and various other Federal, Provincial and municipal statutes. Every person arrested is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law and has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned

The decision of whether the police may arrest a person depends on a number of factors. The police may arrest a person who they believe on reasonable grounds has committed or is about to commit an indictable, that is a very serious, offence. The police may also arrest a person they find committing a criminal offence, or if there is a warrant for arrest that is in effect within the police’s jurisdiction.

The police may also arrest a person to establish his or her identity, secure or preserve evidence relating to the offence, prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or the commission of another offence, or if they believe that the suspect will fail to attend court as directed.

After Arrest

Once arrested, the suspect is entitled to a number of rights which are contained within the Charter of Right and Freedoms. The suspect has the right to know the reason for his or her arrest. He or she has the right to retain and instruct counsel (a lawyer) without delay as well as the right to a contact a legal aid Duty Lawyer. A suspect is not obliged to say anything but anything they do say may be given in evidence.

Once a suspect is arrested by the police, they must be taken before a Justice of the Peace or appear before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest.

In rare situations, when it’s required, a suspect can be held in custody until the case goes to trial. Some of the considerations that the court will consider are whether or not the person is a danger to the public, whether there is a likelihood that he or she will interfere with witnesses, or there is a likelihood that he or she will not otherwise attend court.

Rather than requiring a court appearance and depending upon the circumstances, the police may decide to release a suspect with a written promise to appear (PTA). This is a document prepared by the police for the signature of the person. By signing this form, which may or may not have conditions, the suspect promises to appear in court on a specified date.

In some cases, a police officer may also decide not to make an arrest at all. An appearance notice can be issued at the scene that requires the suspect to appear before the court at a later date. In some other cases, a summons, an official notice from the court, can be issued to direct the accused to appear in court on a specified date.

Police dealing with young people must follow procedures laid down in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The act defines a young person as someone who is over the age of 12 but under the age of 18. Offenders under the age of 12 cannot be charged with or prosecuted for committing an offence.

The Criminal Code procedures governing arrest and bail apply to young persons. The parents or guardians of an offending young person are to be notified as soon as possible in order to enable them to attend any hearing. Specific rules govern the admissibility of any statement that a young person makes to a police officer.

Learn More About

Return to Top of Page