A surety is a person who comes to court and promises to a judge or a justice of the peace to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail.
A surety also pledges or promises an amount of money to the court by signing a type of bond called a recognizance. By doing this, the surety risks losing some or all of the money they have promised to the court if the accused doesn’t follow one or more of the bail conditions or fails to show up to court when required.
A further definition of a surety can be found on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website.
A surety should be an adult Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, and generally not have a criminal record. If you do have a minor criminal record or one that is fairly old and/or minor, you might still be allowed to be a surety.
If you are the alleged victim of the offence, you cannot be the accused’s surety.
A surety should be able to show to the court that they have enough assets to cover the amount of the bail. You are not required to deposit cash in most cases, but you must be “good” for the amount on the bail. The assets can include real estate in your name, bank accounts, and investments.
See also "What Sureties Need to Know".
Sometimes, you may be asked to testify in court about your ability to supervise the accused. If this happens, the accused’s lawyer (or duty counsel), the Crown and maybe the judge or justice of the peace will ask you questions.
As a surety, it is your job to call the police if you find out the accused is not following his or her bail conditions, including the condition to attend court when required. You are the accused’s “jailer in the community” in the eyes of the court and you are required to enforce the bail conditions.
If the accused is charged, and either pleads guilty or is found guilty of breaking any of the bail conditions or failing to attend court, the Crown can ask for you to pay the money that you promised to the court when you agreed to be surety. If the Crown does this, there will be a hearing held and you will get a chance to explain to a judge why you should not have to pay the money to the court. At the end of this hearing, the judge will decide whether you will have to pay all, some or none of the money that was promised.
Yes. However, in some cases, this might not be necessary as the Crown may agree to substitute someone else without a full bail hearing. The judge or justice of the peace must agree with this substitution though. When this substituting happens, it is usually because the court accepts that the accused did not break his or her bail conditions.
You can stop being a surety at any time. If you don’t want to be a surety anymore, you can go back to the courthouse and ask to be removed as surety. If you are removed as surety, the accused (if they are with you) will go back to jail or a warrant will be issued for their arrest (if they are not with you).
Read more information about removing yourself as surety.