What Is the Alternative Measures Program in Canada?

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If you have been charged with a minor crime in Canada, you may be eligible for the Alternative Measures Program. The Alternative Measures Program (AMP) is an opportunity for non-violent offenders to repair the damage they have done, rather than undergo a criminal trial. If the offender completes their AMP satisfactorily, the offence will not be entered onto their criminal record. 

What Are the Benefits of the Alternative Measures Program?

As the name suggests, the AMP give you an “alternative” option to defending yourself in court after being charged with a minor crime. It also clears up the judicial pipeline of small-time offenders who are willing to participate in restorative justice, and reduces prison overcrowding. Perhaps most importantly, an individual who successfully completes their AMP will not incur the offence on their criminal record. 

Having a clean criminal record allows you more options for housing, employment, and freedom of movement. Even one small offence from several years ago can follow a person for the rest of their life, prohibiting them from moving in a positive direction, no matter how much they may regret their past actions. The AMP seeks to remedy this disparity so that minor and one-time offenders can move on with their lives. 

Who Qualifies for the Alternative Measures Program?

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada specifies that the Alternative Measures Program should be reserved for people who have committed minor offences, and who are unlikely to repeat their mistake. As with any judicial process, eligibility for the AMP depends entirely on the particulars of your case. The Crown is the sole determiner of who enters the Alternative Measures Program. However, a police officer or good criminal defence lawyer can recommend you to the program, which can improve your chances. 

You may be eligible for the Alternative Measures Program if:

  • You have been convicted of less than two prior offences;

  • You have not participated in an AMP in the past two years;

  • You are charged with a minor offence that did not cause serious harm or damage; and

  • You demonstrate remorse for your actions.

What Does the Alternative Measures Program Look Like?

The requirements for successful completion of an AMP will look different for every participant and will depend on several factors, such as the type of crime they committed and the willingness of any victims to participate in reconciliation. For example, if someone stole another’s property, but has expressed willingness and means to return the property or otherwise compensate the victim, that action may be part of the offender’s AMP. If that person stole property in order to buy illicit substances, due to an unmanaged addiction, Crown prosecutors could also refer them to an addiction treatment program and require that they participate for a certain amount of time. The Crown will also schedule follow-up dates to check on the participant’s progress and ensure that they are completing the AMP as agreed. 

Upon satisfactory completion of an AMP, the Crown will withdraw all charges, and the participant will walk away without a criminal record. With few exceptions, only the court is privy to an individual’s participation in an AMP. It will not show up on background checks run by employers, banks, or landlords. However, the court will take a past AMP into consideration if an individual commits a repeat offence. 

If an offender does not complete their AMP satisfactorily, Canadian law advises Crown prosecutors to continue with traditional criminal proceedings. Failing to complete an AMP will reflect poorly on a defendant, and will significantly lower their chances of admission to an AMP in the future. 

Explicit Exceptions to Participation

Certain types of crimes, even if committed for the first time and without a prior criminal record, can prohibit someone from participating in an AMP. These include:

  • Domestic violence;

  • Sexual assault;

  • Using, or threatening to use, extreme violence or weapons;

  • Trafficking Schedule I drugs (e.g. heroin) or highly controlled substances, especially near schools or other public places frequented by children;

  • Committing a drug offence with the intention of profit; and

  • A premeditated act that required a high degree of planning (for example, a bank robbery as part of an organized criminal faction).

Alternative Measures vs. Extrajudicial Measures

Many people wonder if offenders younger than 18 can participate in the alternative measures program. After all, young people often make careless mistakes, or submit to pressure from older friends or adults. While the alternative measures program is only for adult offenders, young people who commit minor crimes can take advantage of extrajudicial measures instead. Extrajudicial measures function very similarly to alternative measures. However, they are broader, less formal, and more lenient than an AMP, due to the young age of the offender. Canadian law strongly encourages police officers and prosecutors to employ extrajudicial measures before moving forward with traditional juvenile criminal proceedings. 

Can a Criminal Defence Lawyer Help?

If you have recently been charged with a minor crime in Canada, reach out to a local criminal defence lawyer, like the team from Oykhman Criminal Defence, and ask them if you might qualify for your province’s Alternative Measures Program. If you feel remorse for your actions and believe your crime was a one-time mistake, you might be a good candidate, and can avoid the limitations that even a small criminal record can impose. A compassionate and qualified criminal defence lawyer will listen to your story, advise you on your next steps, and may even recommend you to the program. Don’t let shame over one bad decision stop you from getting legal help.

January 12, 2021 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized