How to Use the Alternative Measures Program for an Offence

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In Canada, charges for even minor crimes can have long-lasting, negative effects on an individual’s life. If you are charged and convicted of a crime, the associated criminal record can severely limit your employment and housing opportunities for years into the future. Fortunately, the Alternative Measures Program (AMP) offers a chance at a clean slate for individuals who commit minor crimes.

What Is the Alternative Measures Program?

The AMP allows certain offenders to avoid conviction by participating in a combination of rehabilitation and restorative justice. The AMP is also known as “diversion,” because it diverts these offenders out of court, and onto (hopefully) a better path forward. When a person is willing to take responsibility for their actions, the Crown can instead offer them alternatives to criminal proceedings. If the accused completes the program satisfactorily, the Crown Prosecutor may drop all charges, effectively removing that offence from the individual’s criminal record. For this reason, the AMP is an attractive option for many people facing minor charges.

Who Is Eligible for the Alternative Measures Program?

Admission to the Alternative Measures Program is at the Crown’s sole discretion, so it depends very much on each individual case. However, if the following factors are present in your unique situation, it will generally bode well for you when determining eligibility:

  • You were charged with a summary conviction offence (minor offence) that did not result in significant damage to persons or property.

  • You have less than two offences on your criminal record.

  • You have not undergone AMP within the past two years.

  • You show remorse for their actions.

  • You are willing to accept responsibility for what happened.

Some examples of minor offences commonly eligible for AMP are:

  • Forging documentation

  • Theft or fraud under $5,000

  • Possession of stolen property under $5,000

  • Mischief (destruction or tampering with property that you do not own) under $5,000

  • Simple assault (excluding domestic violence)

  • Motor vehicle theft

Each province—if it has adopted alternative measures—employs different guidelines for eligibility and restitution acts. A qualified local lawyer can inform you of your province’s specific requirements.

What is the Process for Receiving Alternative Measures?

In some cases, a police officer may refer you to AMP; in other situations, a defence lawyer can recommend you to the program. However, as stated above, the Crown Prosecutor has the ultimate power to decide who receives alternative measures.

If the Crown admits you to the program, you must then formally accept responsibility for your actions. Unlike pleading guilty, accepting responsibility will not result in a conviction and, as such, will not show up on your criminal record. Instead, the court will essentially put your case “on hold” while you complete your required AMP activities. 

The Crown will decide which acts of restitution you must perform based on your province and the nature of your case, among other factors. Some common AMP activities of restitution include:

  • community service;

  • compensation or return of property to the victim; 

  • acts of service to the victim;

  • participation in a reconciliation program for victims and offenders, if the victim is willing; and

  • a written apology or essay.

Once you have completed your AMP, the Crown Prosecutor will review your performance and decide if you have performed the activities to a satisfactory level. If you do not finish the program satisfactorily, the Crown will almost certainly proceed with criminal charges. An unfinished AMP will not carry much favour in the subsequent trial. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will an AMP show up on my criminal record?

With very few exceptions, an AMP will not show up on your criminal record. However, the court may take a prior AMP into account when considering charges for any subsequent offences. In addition, you cannot enroll in an AMP within two years of your last admission. 

Are there exceptions that could bar me from receiving alternative measures?

Yes. The Crown Prosecutor will consider any aggravating factors (circumstances that make a crime more serious). According to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, these include but are not limited to:

  • Domestic violence or sexual violence in an assault case;

  • Trafficking controlled substances or Schedule I drugs (e.g. cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin);

  • Involving a minor (under 18 years old) in a drug offence;

  • Using or threatening to use a weapon; 

  • Using or threatening to use extreme violence;

  • Implementing coordinated and sophisticated planning (e.g., as part of organized crime)

As mentioned above, the unique circumstances surrounding a case will significantly impact the Crown’s decision to offer alternative measures. Consult with a defence attorney if you are unsure how your unique circumstances will affect your case. 

Are juvenile offenders eligible for alternative measures?

Only adult offenders can participate in an alternative measures program. However, the Youth Criminal Justice Act provides extrajudicial measures, which function in much the same way. Juvenile justice laws typically apply extrajudicial measures much more broadly than adult alternative measures. 

How can a lawyer help me take advantage of alternative measures?

An experienced defence lawyer, such as the team at Oykhman Criminal Defence Toronto, will review your case and make a compelling argument to the Crown Prosecutor in favour of alternative measures. Many factors influence your admission to this program, so it’s best to seek legal counsel to increase your chances of success.

October 1, 2020 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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