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The police have arrested me without a warrant. What should I do?

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The police have arrested me without a warrant. What should I do?
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Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)

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The police have arrested me without a warrant. What should I do?
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Reviewed: 
November 2, 2018
Answer

The police can arrest you without a warrant if they:

  • see you committing a crime
  • think it is in the public interest to arrest you in order to find out your identity, preserve evidence, or prevent the continuation of a crime
  • have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed or are about to commit an indictable offence
  • have reasonable grounds to believe there is an outstanding warrant against you

If the police don’t have a warrant, they are only allowed to arrest you for a minor crime if they see you committing the offence or they believe on reasonable grounds that it is in the public’s best interest to arrest you.

But if the crime is more serious they only need to have reasonable grounds to believe you did it or were about to do it. If the police have reasonable grounds to believe you've committed a serious crime or are about to, they can arrest you without a warrant.

Having reasonable grounds to arrest is more than having a suspicion or hunch based on the circumstances. The officer must believe that you committed the offence, and that a judge or jury would find that any reasonable person in the officer's position would believe there are grounds to arrest you.

Identifying yourself

In most situations, you don't have to answer questions from the police. But to avoid spending a lot of time with them, you may want to identify yourself:

  • If the police are looking for someone else, you might avoid being arrested by showing them you're not the person they're looking for.
  • If the police think you might've committed an offence and you don't tell them who you are, they could arrest you. They could hold you at a police station until they find out who you are, or need to take you to court for a bail hearing.
  • If the police believe you've committed a minor offence and you tell them who you are, they might not arrest you. Instead, they might give you a promise to appear telling you when to go to court.

If you lie about your name or address, you can be charged with obstructing justice or obstructing the police.

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