Taking Photographs and Fingerprints of Accused Persons
While going through the "booking" process a peace office may take the fingerprints and a photograph of the accused for identification purposes. Alternatively upon releasing an accused, an officer may give notice to attend for the purposes of identification under the Identification of Criminals Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. I-1.
Taking of Photographs or Fingerprints
Section 2 of the Identification of Criminals Act governs the taking of fingerprints and photographs:
Fingerprints and photographs
2. (1) The following persons may be fingerprinted or photographed or subjected to such other measurements, processes and operations having the object of identifying persons as are approved by order of the Governor in Council:
- (a) any person who is in lawful custody charged with or convicted of
- (i) an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, or
- (ii) an offence under the Security of Information Act;
- (b) any person who has been apprehended under the Extradition Act;
- (c) any person alleged to have committed an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, who is required pursuant to subsection 501(3) or 509(5) of the Criminal Code to appear for the purposes of this Act by an appearance notice, promise to appear, recognizance or summons; or
- (d) any person who is in lawful custody pursuant to section 83.3 of the Criminal Code.
Use of force
(2) Such force may be used as is necessary to the effectual carrying out and application of the measurements, processes and operations described under subsection (1).
(3) The results of the measurements, processes and operations to which a person has been subjected pursuant to subsection (1) may be published for the purpose of affording information to officers and others engaged in the execution or administration of the law.
Section 2(2) of the Act also authorizes taking weight and measurements of the accused, known as "Bertillonnage", this includes obtaining the information verbally from the accused. Information obtained from this Act before Accused's rights and caution, even when verbal, does not violate the right against self-incrimination.
Common Law Powers
Where a detainee has not yet been charged at the time of fingerprinting of picture-taking, there is some uncertainty about whether it would constitute a violation of s. 8 of the Charter. This controversy surrounds the issue of whether there still exists a common law power to take pictures and fingerprints. Where such power exists, there will be no violation of the Charter.
The accused can be compelled by way of an "appearance notice, promise to appear and recognizance" under s. 501 or a summons under s. 509.
Under s. 537(1)(b) a preliminary inquiry judge has the power to "remand the accused to custody for the purposes of the Identification of Criminals Act".
Types of Offences
Section 2(1) of the Identification of Criminals Act applies to persons charged with an indictable or hybrid offences.
Where the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction it does not restroactively invalidate the making of a summons or other means of compelling the accused to attend for identification. However, once a summary election is made, no summons can be issued.
Manner of Obtaining Photos or Prints
There is no obligation that the location of the taking of the photo or print be at somewhere "convenient". It is only where it creates prejudice that it may amount to a violation of natural justice.
Failure to Attend
Where the accused fails to attend, a justice may issue an arrest warrant under s. 502 where it relates to a "appearance notice or promise to appear or by a recognizance" or s. 510 where it relates to a summons.
Charter Rights to Privacy
The taking of fingerprints constitutes a search and seizure under s. 8 of the Charter.
Where fingerprints are taken from a person in custody who is neither charged or convicted of an indictable offence section 8 of the Charter is violated.
The police practice of taking fingerprints of all detainees who are arrested and charged with a criminal offence was found to be constitutional.
MacNeil c. R., 2008 QCCS 908 (CanLII)
See also for details on Bertillonnage R v Shortreed, (1990) 54 CCC (3d) 292(*no link), p. 304
- MacNeil, supra
- R v Nguyen, 2013 BCSC 950 (CanLII) at paras 115 to 126
- e.g. see Nguyen, ibid.
see Identification of Criminals Act, RSC 1985, c I-1
see also e.g. R v Lewis, 1996 CanLII 1358 (BC SC)
R v Blonde, 2015 ONSC 2113 (CanLII) at paras 20 to 32 per Brown SCJ
Blonde, ibid. at para 25
R v Abarca (1980), 57 C.C.C. (2d) 410 (Ont. C.A.) at para. 9 ([o]nce the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction, it cannot compel the appearance of the Crown for fingerprinting.”)
Blonde, ibid. at paras 32 to 64
- R v Dore, 2002 CanLII 45006 (ON CA) at para 32
- R v Carpenter, 2010 BCPC 175 (CanLII)
- R v Beare; R v Higgins, 1988 CanLII 126 (SCC),  2 SCR 387
Retention of Lawfully Obtained Fingerprints
The lawfulness of retaining fingerprints will be determined by the normal analysis required for breaches of s. 8 of the Charter.
An accused who was acquitted or discharged will normally be entitled to have their fingerprints destroyed upon request.
- R v Dore, 2002 CanLII 45006 (ON CA) at para 38
Dore, ibid. at paras 65 - 83
Destruction of Records
Destruction of fingerprints and photographs
4 Where a person charged with an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act is fingerprinted or photographed and the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, makes an election under section 50 of that Act, the fingerprints or photographs shall be destroyed.
1992, c. 47, s. 76; 1996, c. 7, s. 40.
Identification of Criminals Act applies
113 (1) The Identification of Criminals Act applies in respect of young persons.
(2) No fingerprint, palmprint or photograph or other measurement, process or operation referred to in the Identification of Criminals Act shall be taken of, or applied in respect of, a young person who is charged with having committed an offence except in the circumstances in which an adult may, under that Act, be subjected to the measurements, processes and operations.