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Nova Scotia provincial court allowing more tele-warrants, PDF delivery

Thursday, April 09, 2020 @ 1:46 PM | By Terry Davidson

Last Updated: Thursday, April 09, 2020 @ 2:38 PM

In a bid to reduce in-person contact and the physical handling of paper, Nova Scotia’s Justice of the Peace Centre will now be accepting tele-warrant applications from anywhere in the province.

In what is another stab at stopping the spread of COVID-19, the Nova Scotia provincial court announced April 8 that traditional warrants, blood warrants, body impression warrants and several other types of search warrants the Criminal Code permits under the tele-warrant application process can now be sent from anywhere in Nova Scotia, whereas before, law enforcement would have to show it would be “impracticable for the peace officer” to appear in person before a justice of the peace.

“The Court usually interprets this to be based on distance of travel to the Justice of the Peace Centre in Dartmouth,” states a news release. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the current provincial State of Emergency should also satisfy the impracticability condition.”

The release notes that applications for other types of search warrants not allowed to be done via the tele-warrant process — production orders; tracking warrants; transmission data recorder warrants, for example — will still have to be applied for in person.

However, to reduce the chance of spreading the virus, new electronic delivery methods have been put in place for these types of applications, both inside the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and other parts of the province.

Law enforcement officers in the HRM will create a PDF of the application and submit it electronically to a secured e-mail address, after which it will be reviewed at the Justice of the Peace Centre.  

“The investigative agency will then send a second email with a protected password,” states the release. “The Presiding Justice of the Peace [PJP] will review the application and produce a printed copy at the Justice of the Peace Centre. The PJP will then call the officer and have them attend to swear the Information and receipt of the warrant. This is done on either side of a glass divider at the door of the Justice of the Peace Centre.”

According to a second news release, applications made outside the HRM will be reviewed by provincial court judges after they receive the documents via a similar electronic delivery system. The officer will then be summoned to the courthouse with the original sworn documents, which will be delivered to a judge by a deputy sheriff for either approval or rejection.  

The release states this “new process reduces the number of in-person visits officers must make by half, which reduces the risk of spreading the virus and helps free up officers’ time for other tasks.”