How to know if there is a warrant for my arrest?

Most commonly, you can find out if there is a warrant out for your arrest by inquiring in person at the local police station or courthouse or by having your lawyer contact these authorities.

It’s usually best to leave it to an experienced criminal defence lawyer as if there is a warrant out, you will be arrested immediately and your phone could be checked for evidence.

What does an Arrest Warrant mean?

If there is a warrant for your arrest, its main purpose is to ensure you are brought to court. The police have the power to arrest you at any time and anywhere within the territorial jurisdiction of the Court that issued the warrant.

An arrest warrant will include the name of the accused, the offence they are accused of and an authorization to arrest. It must be reviewed and signed off by a judge or justice of the peace.

Most often, accused persons are arrested within the province but if the criminal charges are extremely serious, a Canada-wide warrant may be issued. The police can arrest you at your house, your school or your place of business causing you unnecessary embarrassment and significant inconvenience.

There are several reasons why there may be a warrant for your arrest:

  • Police have laid charges but are unable to locate you;
  • Failure to appear in court;
  • Failure to appear at a police station for identification after being charged;
  • Breaching a condition of a conditional sentencing order;
  • Breaching terms of your release on another criminal charge; and
  • Failure to appear in court as a witness after being subpoenaed.

If you have reason to believe there may be a warrant for your arrest, it is important that you find out so that you can take the necessary steps to have the warrant executed. If you don’t deal with your warrant, it can follow you for life. You also want to be proactive so that you can take the necessary steps to make sure you are released from custody as soon as possible. 

Police Inquiry

One way to find out if there is a warrant for your arrest is to contact the police and ask if a warrant has been issued. You will not be given this information over the phone or online, so you will have to appear in person at a police station with photo identification. If there is a warrant for your arrest, you will be arrested on the spot. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may be released on a Promise to Appear or detained and subjected to a bail hearing. If you choose to go to a police station to determine if there is a warrant, do not take your cell phone with you. Police may seize it and look for incriminating evidence, with or without a warrant.

Court Clerk

Another way to find out if there is a warrant for your arrest is to go to your local courthouse and speak to the court clerk. Just like with the police, this information will not be given to you over the phone, so you will have to go in person with photo identification. You may be charged a fee by the courthouse for this service. Once again, if there is a warrant for your arrest, the clerk will contact a sheriff to place you under arrest.

How to know if there is a warrant for my arrest? 

Hire a Lawyer

The safest way to find out if there is a warrant for your arrest is to hire a criminal defence lawyer. A lawyer can call the Crown Prosecutors’ office and find out without any risk to you. If there is a warrant for your arrest, your lawyer can arrange a time and place for you to turn yourself into the police and also negotiate your release. Retaining a lawyer means that you can work on your bail plan prior to having the warrant executed. This can mean the difference between being released on a Promise to Appear or being detained until your trial.

Executing a Warrant

Generally, there are two ways for a warrant to be executed. The most common way for a warrant to be executed is once you have been arrested. The warrant will be executed whether you turn yourself into the police or they find and arrest you.

If you are going to turn yourself in, don’t do it on a Friday and don’t do it late at night. If you do, you run the risk of spending the night or weekend in jail.

To turn yourself into the police, you can attend any police station and tell the person at the counter there is a warrant for your arrest. You will be placed under arrest and the warrant will be executed. Once released, you will be given a court date and a list of your charges.

Another way to deal with a warrant is to appear in court and ask a judge to bring the warrant into the courtroom to be deemed executed. This is a very difficult process if you don’t have a lawyer. Not many judges are willing to do this unless there is a good reason why you can’t go to a police station and turn yourself in. This generally only happens if the warrant was wrongly issued or your lawyer failed to appear in court on your behalf. If the warrant was not the result of your actions, a judge will be sympathetic and deem the warrant executed in court so that you are not inconvenienced.

Is an Arrest Warrant from Another Province Valid in Alberta?

Arrest warrants are usually only valid in the province in which they are issued. If an arrest warrant was endorsed by a justice of the peace in British Columbia, it is not usually valid in Alberta.

However, the police in Alberta may contact the police agency within the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued if they discover the arrest warrant from B.C. That police agency would then need to decide what happens to the accused.

Arrest warrants sometimes specify geographical limits that the police can travel to in order to arrest an offender. Much depends on the severity of the crime in question. Generally speaking, an arrest warrant for a relatively minor crime should not affect travel to another province. Contrary to depictions on TV or in the movies, the police don’t usually go to great lengths to track suspects down and bring them to jail. Sometimes, relatively routine traffic stops or being pulled over on suspicion of a driving offence can result in a police database check that discovers the warrant — and the suspect may then be arrested on the spot.

However, it’s usually different for serious criminal offences. The police will go to greater lengths to find and arrest a suspect. A person accused of a serious crime like kidnapping or a serious sexual offence may be arrested in a province outside of the one that issued the warrant if it is endorsed by the courts there.

For especially serious offences, a Canada-wide arrest warrant may be issued, granting the power to any Canadian police agency from any jurisdiction to arrest the accused at any time and in any place.

What Other Types of Warrants Exist in Alberta?

Several different types of warrants can result in an arrest — though not all are called “arrest warrants”. There are also bench warrants, surety warrants and telewarrants.

Bench Warrant

A bench warrant grants power to the police to arrest an individual who has failed to appear before the court when they were legally obligated to do so. Its main purpose is to hold the accused in custody until the date of the trial or court hearing.

Surety Warrant

A surety is a named individual who agrees to supervise a person who has been released from custody or jail for a defined period. The term also refers to someone who has made bail payments for an offender to guarantee that the offender will not commit any subsequent criminal acts.

If the surety refuses to provide supervision or bail by making an application to the court, the accused may need to appear in court alongside his/her surety. Failure to do so can result in a surety warrant being issued and the accused can, again, be arrested.


Most warrants in Alberta are issued when a police officer appears in person before a judge or justice of the peace. If this is impossible, a telewarrant may be issued by providing the necessary details over the phone — and it awards the same authorities and powers as a standard arrest warrant.

What Should I Do if There is a Warrant for My Arrest?

If there is a warrant for your arrest — or if you think there might be — it’s important to address it as it won’t go away on its own. In theory, you can be arrested at any time and in any place in the future.

Contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer to check whether there is a warrant for your arrest and to get pre-charge advice. You shouldn’t ignore it as being unexpectedly arrested and detained without a release plan can be very intimidating.

Call us to arrange a confidential consultation

To speak with Cory Wilson or arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Wilson Criminal Defence, call 403-978-6052 or email us here.

About Cory Wilson

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.

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