You can be charged by the police if they see you committing an offence, or if they have a reasonable belief that you have committed an offence. You could also be charged if a member of the public can satisfy a Justice of the Peace that you have committed an offence.
Although the police will usually both charge and arrest you, for some minor offences you may only be charged, and not arrested. If you are only charged, the police might not take you to the police station. Instead, they will just give you a piece of paper that lists two dates: one date will be to have fingerprints and photographs taken, and the other date will be when and where to go to court to set a date for trial. If you do not appear for either of these two dates you can be charged with a separate offence of failure to appear.
If the police arrest you it usually means that the offence is more serious. The police will read you your rights and take you to the police station where you will be fingerprinted and photographed. When you are arrested, the police also have the power to search you.
Even if you are charged with an offence that is not considered serious, the police may still decide to arrest you in addition to charging you. This will happen if you do not identify yourself, if the police believe that you might destroy evidence, or if the police believe that you might repeat the offence.
The police are not required to have a warrant before arresting someone and are given a broad power under the law to arrest people without a warrant. However, in some circumstances, an arrest warrant may be issued by a Justice of the Peace in order to assist the police in carrying out the arrest.
Without a Warrant
The police can arrest you without a warrant if you have committed a serious offence, if you are in the middle of committing a serious offence, if the police believe you are about to commit a serious offence, or if the police believe that there is a warrant out for your arrest. Even if the offence is considered relatively minor and not serious, the police can still arrest you without a warrant if you refuse to identify yourself, or if the police believe that you might repeat the offence or destroy evidence.
With an Warrant
However, if the police are aware of an individual who they believe has committed a particular offence, they can ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge that permits the police to arrest the person named in the warrant. The judge must have a reasonable belief that a criminal offence has been committed by that person before signing the warrant.
Walter Drescher is a partner of the law firm of Cobb & Jones. If you have any questions, send them to the Simcoe Reformer, or consult a lawyer of your choice