Before someone is released on bail in the Canadian court system, they will often need to find a surety. This surety is someone who will agree to act as a guarantor for the person being released on bail. They must be willing to pledge financial responsibility in order to ensure the accused complies with all of the conditions of their release. Further, they are also responsible for ensuring that the person charged with a criminal offence appears in court as designated.
This article will explore the essential information you need to know about how to find a surety in Ontario, what a surety should know, and other important information you won’t want to miss.
This is just one important topic in the overarching subject of Canadian criminal trials. Learn more about how criminal trials work in Canada here.
What is a Surety?
A surety is an individual who acts as surety for the accused person when they are released on bail in Ontario or any other Canadian province. Again, the surety pledges financial responsibility to ensure that the accused appears in court. They also pledge responsibility to ensure the accused complies with all their release conditions.
In most cases, only a close family member or friend may act as surety for someone released on bail in Ontario. In some instances, non-family members (such as colleagues) may act as sureties if approved.
When you are trying to find a surety, there are certain qualifications you must keep in mind—a surety must meet precise requirements to be accepted by the court.
For example, they must be over 18 years of age and have the financial means to back up their pledge for financial surety.
A surety must meet a number of other requirements as well, including:
- The ability to attend court in person to sign the bail
- Being a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant
- No involvement in the offence the accused has been charged with
- Have no outstanding criminal charges
- Can monitor the accused to ensure they comply with their release conditions
- Willing to report a breach
- Adequate financial assets they can pledge to the court as security
There can be exceptions to these. However, generally a surety should only be acting as such to one person at a time. Further, it is best if they do not have a criminal record themselves.
Next, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of a surety’s three primary responsibilities.
As outlined by Steps to Justice, these responsibilities are as follows:
- “Make sure the accused person goes to court when required.
- Make sure the accused person follows the bail conditions.
- Call the police if the accused doesn’t follow any bail conditions.”
These responsibilities must not be taken lightly, as surety is responsible for guaranteeing that the accused appears in court and follows all of their conditions of release.
Should the surety fail to do either, they could be held financially and criminally responsible. Therefore it is imperative for the surety to thoroughly assess how much responsibility they can handle and what kind of commitment they are willing to make before agreeing to the role.
Quantum of Bail
Speaking of the surety’s responsibilities, the surety will also need to consider the quantum of bail. This is essentially the amount of money surety must pledge as financial surety on behalf of the accused.
The surety should be aware that this money may not necessarily be returned to them if the accused fails to appear in court or breaks any other conditions set out by the court. In many cases, the surety will be asked to provide paper evidence of their financial surety, such as a bank account statement.
In addition to the quantum of bail, the surety should also consider all other possible costs associated with the surety role. These may include travel expenses, legal fees, and any additional surety bond payments that the court may require.
In some instances, the surety may decide they want to be relieved of surety responsibilities. The surety is free to rid themselves of surety duties at any time by making this request at their courthouse.
Upon doing so, a warrant will be issued for the accused, and they will go back to jail pending either their trial or a new surety being found. However, if the accused attends the courthouse with their surety, they will be taken into custody rather than having a warrant issued for their arrest.
A Surety in Canadian Criminal Cases: FAQs
Here are three key questions surrounding surety in criminal cases.
Can surety be a family member or friend?
Yes, the surety can be a family member or close friend of the accused. However, the surety must meet all requirements set out by the court and must have the financial means to pledge surety on behalf of the accused.
What are surety responsibilities?
A surety’s responsibilities include making sure the accused attends court when required, follows bail conditions, and reports any breach to the authorities.
What happens if a surety doesn’t fulfill the surety’s responsibilities?
If the surety fails to fulfill surety obligations, they may be held legally and financially responsible. This could include being fined or even being sent to jail.
Being surety for criminal cases in Ontario is a major responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Before becoming a surety, it is vital to understand the surety’s primary duties and any financial obligations they may incur. If you would like to learn more about how to find a surety for a Canadian criminal trial or any other topics relating to criminal law, contact KIVLaw today to speak to a criminal lawyer in Ontario. Our legal team is ready to answer your questions and provide the advice you need.