When can police take your fingerprints in Canada?

​​​Identity is a big thing in criminal law. There’s always the question of whether someone is in fact who they claim to be. It makes sense. Different people can look alike, and it’s not that unusual to find someone who’s a near-perfect doppelgänger living in the general vicinity of their counterparts. So over the years legislators have developed ways to keep track of individuals with increasingly advanced techniques.
The common version that most are familiar with is the mugshot. You get arrested and charged with a crime, police are allowed to take a photo of you, maybe obtain your measurements such as your height, note down whether you have any tattoos and so on. But photo lineups only go so far. So the same piece of legislation, the Identification of Criminals Act, also provides police the powers to obtain your fingerprints, which as far as science proves, are unique to each individual — and are often left behind at crime scenes.

Canada’s Identification of Criminals Act allows police to obtain fingerprints
First, a little bit about the Identification of Criminals Act. This act sets out when police are allowed to obtain these photographs, measurements and fingerprints of an accused person. Without pasting the entire piece of legislation, for the most part, it goes like this:

If you have been charged or convicted for an indictable offence (that’s Canada’s equivalent to a felony for those US crime drama lovers), or if a police officer or court issues a notice based on you being accused of an indictable offence, you may be photographed, measured or fingerprinted.

Two main points here. The first: if you’re charged or convicted with an indictable offence, barring some exemptions, you can automatically be compelled to be fingerprinted. The second allows a court or police officer to compel you, by issuing a notice, a promise to appear, a recognizance or a summons to provide your fingerprints even if you have not been charged or convicted. You simply need to be accused of a crime.

You can’t just refuse to show up either. Doing so could result in you being arrested or even worse, being further charged with a failure to appear offence.

Immediately, lawyers noticed a big issue.
Compelling an innocent person to do something, at the threat of arrest, is sort of unconstitutional. Remember, all the act requires is that you’re either charged with an indictable offence, or be accused of an indictable offence that you haven’t been charged for, as long as the demand is accompanied by a notice.

A constitutional challenge was filed, and a decision was rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988. In its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that compelling someone to provide fingerprints at the threat of arrest infringes s. 7 of the Charter, which grants everyone in Canada the right to life, liberty and security. However, the Supreme Court also determined that while the rights of the accused are somewhat invaded, the legislation was not fundamentally unfair and did not offend the principles of fundamental justice.

As a result, the law was upheld.

How police began interpreting this fingerprint law
As often the case with developments in legislation, police may get creative in their interpretation of the law. A good example was documented in a 1998 case. This decision detailed how an officer had arrested someone for impaired driving and possessing stolen licence plates. The officer then decided to ask the driver to provide fingerprints.

Legally speaking, the officer had a few options.

​He could hold the driver and wait until Crown prosecutors would approve charges, satisfying the Act by making sure the accused was charged with an indictable offence, before demanding fingerprints from the driver.

Alternatively, he could release the driver and issue a notice that the driver returns at a later date to provide his fingerprints.

The officer chose to do neither of those options and instead asked the driver to provide the fingerprints immediately. The driver complied.

Now the question before the BC Court of Appeal in 1998 was this: because the officer had neglected to follow the instructions of the legislation and instead asked the driver to provide fingerprints immediately, were the fingerprints lawfully obtained? More importantly, could the fingerprints be used to then identify this driver in the future?

This question opened a huge can of worms
The first question was whether the driver provided consent to the officer to obtain his fingerprints.

The court decided the driver did consent, and determined that since the driver may have eventually been compelled to provide his fingerprints through the avenues established by law, that the officer was actually doing the driver a favour by offering to take his fingerprints up front.

But the court wasn’t finished. It also wanted to answer the question of whether, by arresting the driver, the officer had technically “charged” him and was able to compel the driver to provide fingerprints regardless.

For those of us who are lawyers, this question is a little silly. In British Columbia, it is the Crown prosecutors who must approve every criminal “charge,” and police officers simply do not have the authority to do so.

The court took a more interesting theory: that the word “charged” isn’t properly defined in law and was up to interpretation. Held loosely, one judge’s opinion was the term “charged” could be interpreted as an accused being told they will be prosecuted criminally by an authority. In other words, to the judge who wrote the decision, an officer arresting someone on suspicion of a crime is good enough to qualify as a “charge,” and on further interpretation would mean that in theory fingerprints could be taken on any criminal arrest.

​Wait, there’s more.
One of the interesting factors of this case was how impaired driving is a hybrid offence. This means impaired driving is neither a summary offence (misdemeanour) nor an indictable offence (felony) by itself, and it’s up to the Crown prosecution to decide whether, depending on the severity of the case, to proceed summarily or by indictment.

An important note here: because the impaired driving allegation was the driver’s first offence, it was more than likely the Crown would have proceeded summarily. This is a point we’ll get back to.

Let’s go back a few steps. You’ll recall that in order for police to demand fingerprints, the offence being alleged must be an indictable offence. So for the purposes of fingerprints and identifying criminals, would a hybrid offence be considered an indictable offence, especially considering that it would have been likely for the Crown to proceed summarily?

In New Brunswick, there is legal precedent that the answer would be “no,” that unless the officer believed a hybrid offence would proceed as an indictment, the officer may not take fingerprints. BC’s Court of Appeal chose not to follow that decision.

Instead, the BC Court of Appeal preferred other legal precedents in Ontario and BC that an indictable offence is one that “could be dealt with on indictment” and not one that must be dealt with on indictment. The mere possibility, it seems, was enough.

The court wasn’t finished, just yet.
There was the question of retention of fingerprint records. If someone was acquitted of their past offences, namely the offences through which they were fingerprinted, do police have an obligation to destroy the records? If the answer is yes, then if this driver had been found innocent of his previous charge, there would be no admissible record of his fingerprints.

Great question. BC Court of Appeal had a better answer. It took the example of someone theoretically being charged with a crime they had previously been acquitted for, and asks: how would this person prove they had previously been acquitted?

Fingerprints, apparently.

From the decision:

“In order to invoke this protection against being tried again after having been acquitted, a person must be able to establish that he or she is the very person who had formerly been tried. Fingerprints which have been retained following the acquittal provide the only certain means of doing so.”

I mean, this is a bit like suggesting that constantly having police monitor our every movement will prove our innocence in the event we are accused of a crime. It’s a stretch, at best. And no, you’re not the only one frustrated by this suggestion.

There was one saving grace
Thankfully, BC’s Court of Appeal works in panels of three judges. One of the judges said the Court would be going too far to decide the matter of whether a police officer arresting someone, indicating a prosecution may occur, would qualify as a “charge” for the purposes of fingerprinting.

The third judge, meanwhile, said that while the charge interpretation may be acceptable, the Identification of Criminals Act shouldn’t be read as a law “augmenting” police powers during an arrest.

Very confusing, I know.

Other judges were just as confused
Just a year later, a judge in the BC Supreme Court was asked to interpret whether a person who had been arrested, without being charged, could be compelled to give their fingerprints based on the interpretation of the previous 1998 decision.

It was an unenviable task. This judge was essentially asked to determine what the previous three judges at a higher level of court meant when they disagreed with each other on whether police can demand fingerprints on each and every arrest.

The judge wasn’t certain, and even said so in the decision. His own conclusion was that “an arrest is not enough,” and that there must be a charge or conviction as stated by the Identification of Criminals Act. While his decision was not challenged, what we in the legal profession and the public are left with is an unanswered question. Are police allowed to take fingerprints on every arrest?

At least one opinion in the BC Court of Appeal thinks so. At least one opinion in the BC Supreme Court thinks not. And none of us are really sure what will happen if a police officer decides to demand your fingerprints for a minor arrest and you object.

It’s perhaps time for the Supreme Court of Canada to step in

92 thoughts on “When can police take your fingerprints in Canada?”

  1. In August 2017 in the case of Jaggi Singh, the Superior Court of Quebec affirmed a decision that stated that after the Crown elected to go summary, no longer could he be compelled to have his fingerprints taken. This was a certiorari application that challenged amongst other things that municipal court decision, and the Superior Court judge accepted the municipal court reasoning completely.

  2. I took another look at Connors and it is incorrect when you state: “The third judge, meanwhile, said that while the charge interpretation may be acceptable…” The third judge agreed actually with the second judge. Therefore, two out of three judges did not agree with this interpretation of “charged”. This means that the BC Superior Court in that other decision applied things correctly in going with two out of three.
    In the Singh case, the key decision cited was Dudley 2009 Supreme Court which overturned Connors and its claim that hybrid offences are always indictable by nature. That was the main authority there.

  3. Can I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody that really understands what they’re talking about on the web. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people must read this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you are not more popular because you most certainly have the gift.

  4. really nice

    This is actually credible data my friend. you are a very well-proportioned writer . i lust after to share with you my website as well. proclaim me what do you think approximately it

    buy youtube views

    Thankyou again for posting such good content. Cheers

  5. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that
    automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking
    for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you
    would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy
    reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  6. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been conducting a little homework on this.

    And he actually ordered me breakfast because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this
    topic here on your web page.

  7. I like what you guys are up to. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on with the superb works guys. I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my website. 🙂

  8. This can be a very interesting post. We like that you only provide quality information and not write about something.
    Maintain it up and you will probably achieve great results.

    Exactly what do a person think about my web site? magazin de pescuit

  9. This is a really enchanting website I forced to say.

    Too bad that there are not too varied websites like This anymore. But I am exhilarated that I develop it. Penetrating criticism on it .

    You can see my website here as unquestionably: xbody ems

  10. It’s difficult to find knowledgeable people on this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  11. Howdy outstanding blog! Does running a blog like this
    require a lot of work? I have no knowledge of coding
    however I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have any ideas or tips for new
    blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject nevertheless
    I just wanted to ask. Thanks a lot!

  12. It’s amazing to go to see this website and reading the views
    of all mates about this paragraph, while I am also keen of getting experience.

  13. Thanks for any other informative web site. The place else could I get
    that kind of information written in such a perfect means?
    I have a challenge that I am simply now running on, and I
    have been on the look out for such information.

  14. Three years have passed by in a hurry. The age of dreams is filled with laughter and laughter. Don’t wave your hands and sigh, feel that the flowers are running out, gather courage, and don’t forget to exchange surprise news.

  15. Someone essentially help to make significantly articles I might state.
    That is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far?

    I surprised with the research you made to make this particular
    submit amazing. Excellent process!

  16. Let life be written, and always remember to ignite the warm sunshine of the soul. There are always some happy shots, hidden in the corner of memory, and gently lifted up inadvertently, shaking off a room of Xiao Se!

  17. Let life be written, and always remember to ignite the warm sunshine of the soul. There are always some happy shots, and gently lifted up inadvertently, shaking off a room of Xiao Se!

  18. I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I
    never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me.
    Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a
    lot more useful than ever before.

  19. Some people have never had a chance to see each other. When they have had a chance to meet, they hesitate again. Some love has never had a chance to love, and when I have a chance to love, I no longer love.

  20. Life is playing chess with God. You take one step, God takes one step. It is impossible for you to take every step, so you must take every step of your own. The final destiny is either you will have God’s army, or God will be your army.

  21. I want to be with you, even if it is a headless and tailless farce, I will persist until the moment the world fades after you leave the stage, hold a small lamp and stand in the memory waiting for you.

  22. Some things turn around for a lifetime. I didn’t know each other at first, but finally I didn’t know each other. If love is just passing by, why bother here. Some love, had to settle each other, suddenly looking back, I can no longer tell.

  23. Técnicos especialistas en la reparación de lavadoras Siemens, lavavajillas Siemens, frigoríficos Siemens, cocinas Siemens, hornos Siemens y vitrocerámicas Siemens. En el supuesto de que haya que llevarse su aparato Siemens averiado, disponemos de talleres especializados y preparados para llevar a cabo una reparación exhaustiva y precisa del mismo. Nuestros técnicos formados y con más de 20 años de experiencia en el sector ofrecen las mejores reparaciones.

  24. Este rechazo lo encontramos en la sociedad en general, en los medios de comunicación, en las administraciones públicas y entre los mismos profesionales de la educación y el trabajo social y otros técnicos del sistema de protección de la infancia. Pero desde este domingo, una alternativa novedosa parece asomarse para recibir buen dinero sin trabajar mucho, incluso, colgando el uniforme antes del final del contrato garantizado… y es ser técnico de los Miami Marlins.

  25. Servicio tecnico joannes, reparamos la marca Joannes y otras en Madrid y Toledo. Servicio técnico Joannes, Madrid, Aranjuez, Paracuelos del Jarama, Alcobendas, Alcala de Henares, llegamos a casi todas las localidades de Madrid. SERVICIO TECNICO DE CALDERAS JMR CLIMACALOR Empresa autorizada de gas y calefacción. Empresa autorizada por la DGI de Madrid y Toledo para la reparacion y el mantenimiento de aparatos a gas calderas calentadores de gas y gasoil, servicio tecnico de calderas, control de gases, revisiones, instalaciones de gas, calefacción y aire acondicionados. Al servicio de nuestros clientes desde hace 18 años seriedad, responsabilidad y precio justo.

  26. Ofrecemos un servicio técnico de calidad con el cual estará satisfecho dado al grado de preparación de nuestro equipo de técnicos nos atrevemos a decir que su electrodoméstico esta en las mejores manos, al contactar con nosotros para la reparación de alguno de sus electrodomésticos. Estaremos allí para ayudarle con su incidencia el mismo día que contacte con nosotros, siendo sin más nuestro servicio la solución a esa avería de su electrodoméstico. Estamos cerca a tu municipio en la Comunidad de Madrid somos precisos en nuestras reparaciones enfatizando en calidad alargando la vida útil de sus electrodomésticos de gama blanca.

  27. Epígrafe 4 .4.- Comercio al por menor de labores de tabaco, realizado por establecimientos mercantiles en régimen de autorizaciones de venta con recargo. Epígrafe 4 .5.- Comercio al por menor de labores de tabaco, realizado a través de máquinas automáticas, en régimen de autorizaciones de venta con recargo. Epígrafe 4 . .- Comercio al por menor de tabacos de todas clases y formas, en localidades donde no esté estancada la venta. Pero es lo mismo, un compresor llena las bombas de aire cuando éstas se desinflan.

  28. El técnico encontrará en esta obra principios tecnológicos de física, mecánica, electricidad y otros varios que le ayudarán a calcular y resolver problemas técnicos, así como normas y consignas de seguridad, esquemas básicos de electricidad, neumática, hidráulica, fluidos en general, calefacción, refrigeración y ventilación. Es una obra que en su versión original ha alcanzado 42 ediciones, debido a su éxito y a lo imprescindible para cualquier profesional y técnico de los sectores de frío y calor. Este libro ayudará a descubrir y conocer los secretos prácticos de la refrigeración en general.

  29. Siguiendo, por el pésimo servicio en SONY en Texas, de donde devolvieron equipo con Microsoft Office 2010 que no puedo utilizar y los CD’s de instalación llegaron embarrados con un pegamento poderosísimo, similar al que usan los zapateros, el que no permitirá el uso de los CD’s en otra oportunidad. Además, el mismo pegamento ha borrado unas cuantas letras del código (llave) de producto, que se requiere para completar la instalación de Microsoft Office. He iniciado el trámite por web pero no me informan de nada más en el proceso así que no se que pasa. Plataforma Proveedores : Achilles – Repro, Achilles – Protrans y Achilles – Regic.

  30. Nuestro personal se encargará de solucionar cualquiera que sea su avería y disponemos de todo tipo de recambios, siempre originales de la marca Ariston, para la reparación de lavadoras Ariston, reparación de lavavajillas Ariston, reparación de frigoríficos Ariston, reparación de cocinas Ariston, reparación de hornos Ariston, reparación de secadoras Ariston, reparación de vitrocerámicas Ariston y reparación de termos eléctricos Ariston en Madrid.

  31. Las entidades tutoras, las delegaciones del gobierno del estado, las embajadas y consulados se deben coordinar y asegurar de que sus propuestas, en sus respectivas competencias, eviten disfunciones y aseguren la propuesta más adecuada al Interés Superior del Niño en cada caso. El registro de menores extranjeros no acompañados de la Dirección General de Policía del Ministerio de Interior debería servir única y exclusivamente para garantizar los derechos de cada Niño. Miami.- Cuando uno se independiza de sus padres, una de las primeras cosas que le dicen es que uno debe prepararse para el retiro.

  32. El Servicio técnico de reparación de lavavajillas LG ofrece a sus clientes rapidez y toda la garantía de una gran marca. El Servicio técnico de reparación de secadoras LG ofrece a sus clientes rapidez y toda la garantía de una gran marca. SAT España Servicio Técnico Oficial, S.L. es un servicio técnico oficial regulado por la Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid, pero no es el servicio técnico oficial de la marca Lg. Reparamos, Instalamos, damos mantenimiento y vendemos accesorios y repuestos para todo tipo de electrodomésticos, aire acondicionado, calentadores, termos y calderas. También somos Servicio Técnico Oficial de Cata, Nodor y Apelson en la Comunidad de Madrid.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Call Now ButtonCALL ME NOW Scroll to Top