Can I travel if there is a warrant for my arrest?
If there is a warrant for your arrest, you want to deal with it as quickly as possible. Depending on whether it is a provincial warrant or a Canada-wide warrant, police have the power to arrest you at any time and in any place within the jurisdiction that issued the warrant. Police have access to information about you through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). This is a national database that allows police the ability to find information on almost every person, including warrant status. If police determine there is a warrant for your arrest, you will be arrested and taken into custody. This is not something you want to have happen at the start of your vacation.
Whether or not you can travel on an airline with an outstanding warrant depends in large part on where you are travelling.
Travelling on Domestic Flights
Generally speaking, you should have few issues travelling within Canada if there is a warrant for your arrest.
When checking in online or at the airport kiosk, airlines don’t automatically check passenger names against databases to determine if there are warrants. Ticketing agents or checkpoint staff have neither the time nor capability to run such checks.
This applies even when you pass through security. It is unlikely you will be stopped because the TSA has no access to databases that flag warrants against passenger names.
Besides, travelling domestically is not expressly prohibited for people with warrants but you do need to be aware of the potential risks and consequences.
Even though the police are not actively out looking for those with warrants, you can and will be taken to jail if you are stopped with an outstanding warrant against your name.
At the airport, you can be caught out boarding a flight if:
- Someone aware you have a warrant and knows your travel details (like a jealous ex-spouse) informs the police that you will be at the airport at a certain time on a certain date (and you will not receive a refund for your ticket).
- The TSA finds something illegal as you pass through the security checkpoint —you may be pulled aside and asked tough questions, including personal information, leading to the discovery of your arrest warrant.
Travelling on International Flights
The security procedures for international travel do involve checking databases. Depending on where you are travelling to and on which airline, it is possible that your warrant will be discovered and police will be called. If you are travelling to the United States, you generally pass through customs while still in Canada. They will run your passport and warrants will most likely appear. If there is a warrant for your arrest, you will be detained and most likely turned over to police.
For international air travel outside of the United States, you generally pass through customs upon entry at your destination. If there is a warrant for your arrest in Canada, you will likely not be permitted entry into your destination. It is highly unlikely that you will be detained at your destination unless your charges are extremely serious. Most often, the destination country will force you to remain in the airport and board the next available flight back to Canada. Depending on the charges for which there is a warrant, they may or may not alert police in Canada that you are being returned as a result of a warrant. If that is the case, police will be waiting to arrest you when you disembark the plane.
When can you fly with a warrant?
While you can usually board domestic flights with an outstanding warrant, the same doesn’t apply to international flights — even if you are simply intending to go on holiday.
Security personnel on international flights have access to criminal information through a national database that allows them to find information on travellers, including warrant status. If an outstanding warrant is discovered, you will likely be detained, the police will be called and you will be arrested at the airport and taken into custody.
If you are travelling to the United States, you generally pass through customs while still in Canada. Customs personnel will run your passport and warrants will most likely appear. If there is a warrant for your arrest, you will be detained and most likely turned over to the police.
For international air travel outside of the United States, you generally pass through customs upon entry at your destination. If there is a warrant for your arrest in Canada, you will likely not be permitted entry into your destination. It is highly unlikely that you will be detained at your destination unless your charges are extremely serious.
Most often, the destination country will force you to remain in the airport and board the next available flight back to Canada. Depending on the charges for which there is a warrant, the police in Canada may be alerted that you are being returned as a result of a warrant. If that is the case, police will likely be waiting to arrest you when you disembark the plane.
Who cannot fly with a warrant?
Certain convicted criminals are denied a passport and therefore cannot fly internationally. These include:
- International drug traffickers
- Those subjected to a federal arrest
- Those forbidden by probation, parole or a court order to leave the country
- Anyone owing money for child support (for example, if you owe $2,500 or more in the U.S.)
- Anyone imprisoned or under a supervised release program for felony drug offense charges relating to distributing a controlled substance
How do you find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest?
There are three basic ways to check if there is a warrant out for your arrest in Canada: by visiting a police station in person, asking in person at the criminal court or checking with a lawyer.
More information about each of these methods can be found in our FAQ on how to know if there is a warrant for your arrest.
What if you have an arrest warrant in a different province?
In most cases, an arrest warrant applies to the province in which it is issued. There are three main exceptions:
- In the most serious cases, a Canada-wide arrest warrant may be issued. This means that you can be arrested by police officers anywhere in the country.
- When a warrant is issued by the superior court or the court of appeal, police officers anywhere in Canada can arrest and bring you into custody.
- When a warrant is issued by a provincial authority and endorsed by a court in another province, it enables the police in that province to arrest you.
The two main types of warrants issued in Canada are bench warrants and first-instance warrants. The former are issued because you failed to attend Court while the latter are for when the police charge you but cannot find you.
Either type of warrant may specify a maximum distance that police will travel to arrest you, depending on how serious the alleged related offence is.
In most cases, it is unlikely that police will travel from one side of the country to another to escort a suspect back unless it is for a serious offence. The local police will, however, have visibility of the warrant on the national database and you may be questioned about it if stopped in another province.
The Best Option: Take Care of the Warrant
If you think that there is a warrant for your arrest, the best thing you can do is deal with it. A warrant doesn’t just go away and can follow you throughout your life. In order to determine if there is a warrant for your arrest, you can attend any police station. If there is a warrant, you will be arrested on the spot. The safest and easiest way to find out if there
Cory has represented individuals from all walks of life including lawyers, police officers, athletes, corporate executives, teachers, and everything in between. Cory believes in access to justice for every person charged with a criminal offence regardless of their economic background.