Surety Bond: Who is a Surety and How Can They Assist You Get Bail

PUBLISHED ON September 13, 2023

Every day, people are arrested and charged with criminal offences. Often, they are released from the police station on some form of release that contains conditions by which they must abide. For example, sometimes an accused is released with a “Promise to Appear” and an “Undertaking,” with conditions that they will have no contact with a specified person or be subject to a curfew. Sometimes, however, the accused is not released from the police station at all, and in these cases, the accused will be held for a bail hearing. At the bail hearing, the presiding justice will determine whether the accused should be released from custody pending the resolution of the case. In some cases, the accused is released on their own recognizance. In others, the accused will require a surety.

But what is a surety, and what are the responsibilities of a surety? The following is a brief summary of information that may be of assistance. This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be legal advice. For legal advice, please contact Brian Ross at (416) 658-5855. 

What is a Surety?

A surety is a person, usually a close friend or family member of the accused, who is familiar with the accused’s life and can take responsibility and supervise the accused while on release. The surety will have to show that they are responsible, that the accused will listen to them, and have assets to pledge to the court for the accused’s release. The surety does not pay money upfront but makes a ‘promise’ to the court that they have the assets and can pledge that amount for the accused’s release. Importantly, the surety can lose the money pledged should the accused flee or fail to comply with the conditions of the bail. The amount of money to be pledged is decided upon by the presiding justice. It is not the case that there is a set financial amount for a specific charge. Two people can have identical charges, and yet the amounts pledged can differ wildly between them. A millionaire, for example, who is willing to pledge only $50,000, may not be considered a better surety than a person who only has $5000 and is willing to pledge the entire $5000. Every case is different.

Responsibilities of a Surety

During the bail hearing, it is usually the case that the surety will testify. The criminal defence lawyer will question the surety and establish that the surety can supervise the accused and discuss their ability to supervise the proposed conditions of the release. The surety will also be cross-examined by the Crown Attorney, who may attempt to undermine the surety’s evidence. Ultimately, the presiding justice will determine whether a release is appropriate and, if so, will decide the appropriate conditions for the release with the assistance of counsel.

The resulting “recognizance” will contain information such as the date of the next hearing, charges, and the conditions of release. The surety’s responsibility will be to enforce those conditions. The conditions may include:

  • House arrest
  • To be with the accused at all times
  • To make sure the accused is in the residence by a certain time (curfew)
  • To make sure the accused does not contact specified people
  • Ensuring the accused attends court

Again, should the accused fail to comply with any conditions, the surety could lose the money pledged.  

Final Thoughts

If you are being asked to be a surety, you should know that this is not a one-day affair. The process begins with the bail hearing preparation (preparation of the surety to testify), and the responsibility continues until the matter reaches a final resolution. 

Are you in need of legal services from a professional criminal defence lawyer and have questions about being a surety? If so, please call Brian Ross for assistance.


A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

(416) 658-5855

Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Selected for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 editions of the Best Lawyers in Canada

Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in Canada is based on a rigorous peer-review survey. Recognition by Best Lawyers symbolizes excellence in practice and specifically, high calibre work in criminal defence.


Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.


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