A surety is someone who comes to court and commits to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail. Typically, a surety is an adult Canadian citizen (or permanent resident), and usually does not have a criminal record. A surety should be someone with regular contact with the accused, and that lives nearby. Sometimes, an accused is required to live with a surety as part of their release conditions. In deciding whether to allow you to be a surety for someone, the court will take into account many considerations, including how long you have known the accused.
Agreeing to become someone’s surety is a serious commitment to make, and should not be taken lightly. Being a surety involves being partially responsible for a person charged with a criminal offence. The court will determine whether you are eligible to be a surety, taking into account your assets, as well as your personal character. You must have enough assets to cover the bail amount, even though you may not be required to deposit the entire amount. You may be questioned, or have to testify in court as to your eligibility to be a surety. You may also be required to deposit or pledge a sum of money to the court which will be forfeited if you fail in your duties as a surety.
Some of the duties of a surety include ensuring the accused attends all court appearances and making sure the accused complies with their release conditions. As a surety, you are required to phone the police and report the accused if they are not complying with their conditions. If you fail to report it, you may be removed as surety and may forfeit the money pledged.
If you have fully thought out the decision and wish to be a surety, you should have a plan prepared for how you will ensure the accused will follow their conditions should the judge or justice of the peace ask you. You should also be prepared to be a surety for the accused for a substantial period of time, as the court process is lengthy. You could be responsible for being a surety for the accused for months or even years. You can, however, remove yourself as surety without giving reason by attending at court and requesting to be removed. The accused will then either be held in custody or will need a new surety.
Ron Ellis is a criminal defence lawyer based in London, Ontario and practices criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener.