A surety is someone who agrees to take responsibility for supervising a person accused of a crime while they are out on bail.
It is the surety’s responsibility to ensure that the accused attend court as required, and that the accused abides by the conditions of his release as imposed by the court. Common conditions include following a curfew or house arrest, not possessing weapons, and not communicating with certain individuals. The surety is often known as the “jailer in the community.” As such, it is your job to call the police if the accused is not following his or her bail conditions or not attending court when required.
The Requirements for Becoming a Surety
A proposed surety should be a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. He or she should not have a criminal record and should not be acting as a surety for anyone else. In determining the suitability of the surety, the court will look at how long you have known the accused, the nature of your relationship, and whether you are capable of exercising authority over the accused. A surety may also be asked to testify about their background, character, and community ties, among other things.
As a surety you must be prepared to pledge a certain amount of money as determined by the court. Before determining the amount to be pledged, the court will consider a variety of factors including your personal finances. Meaning, the court does not expect every surety to be a millionaire, but as a surety you can expect that the amount will be something you personally consider a significant. In most instances, the amount pledged would not need to be deposited with the court, but the surety will need to establish that they have sufficient funds or personal assets to cover the amount of the bail.
Forfeiture of Bail
If the accused is charged with breaching the conditions of his bail or failing to attend court, and either pleads guilty or is found guilty, the Crown can ask for you to forfeit the money you pledged to the court. If the Crown does this, an estreatment hearing will be held and you will get a chance to explain to a judge the steps you took to ensure the accused abided by his conditions and why you should not have to pay the amount pledged. 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.
Ending Your Obligations as a Surety
You can stop being a surety at any time. As a surety you do not have to give a reason because your right to be relieved of your obligations is unconditional. If you don’t want to be a surety anymore, you can go back to the courthouse and ask to be removed as a surety. If this occurs, the accused must return to custody and reapply for release. He or she may be able to avoid returning to custody if a new surety is put in place of the old one.