The Alternative Measures Program (often called AMP) is an option that is often available for people charged with minor criminal offences who have no criminal record. It is a “diversion program,” which means that the program is meant to steer people out of the criminal justice system. Participants are usually required to complete some form of community service, volunteer work or charitable donation. If successfully completed, the charges are withdrawn. Most importantly, participation in the Alternative Measures Program is not a guilty plea or an admission of guilt. The advantage to participation in the program is that it allows someone to “take responsibility” for their actions while at the same time avoiding a criminal record.
DO I QUALIFY?
Whether someone can participate in the Alternative Measures Program is in the discretion of the Crown Prosecutor. Police can also refer files for Alternative Measures. Domestic violence offences are not eligible. The following charges typically qualify:
- Any summary conviction offence in the Criminal Code except for charges relating to family violence or for breaching a court order.
- Hybrid offences where the Crown proceeds by summary conviction, including:
- Assault (only simple assault in a non-domestic situation)
- Theft under $5000;
- Possession of stolen property under $5000;
- Fraud under $5000;
- Possession of a controlled substance (depending on the substance); and
- Obtaining sexual services for consideration.
The Alternative Measures Program is typically only offered to people who have no criminal record and have not participated in the program in the past. However, someone may be eligible for a second opportunity to do Alternative Measures if the last time they completed the program was at least two years earlier. If you have completed the program more than two times and have been charged with a minor criminal offence, you should talk to a lawyer about what options you have. Similarly, if you have been charged and it has been less than one year since you last participated in the program, you should talk to a lawyer about whether there may be other options available to you.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The first step is to determine whether you are eligible. A lawyer can help you do this. If you are, you need to decide whether you are willing to “take responsibility” for your behavior. This does not mean that you are required to plead guilty or admit any of the allegations against you. However, if you decide to participate in the program, you will meet with someone from the program who will discuss your case with you in private. They will ask you if you take responsibility and will then discuss what type of tasks you will be required to do. You will be given several months to complete the requirement. This is typically volunteer hours or donating to a registered charity. You will then have to provide proof of completion to the program facilitator who will then communicate that information to the Crown Prosecutor. If all requirements have been met, the charges will be withdrawn at the next court appearance. In Alberta, cases are usually adjourned three to four months to allow for completion of the Alternative Measures Program.
WILL I HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD?
You will not obtain a criminal record if you participate in the Alternative Measures Program. This is the main reason so many people participate in this diversion program. However, you should know that if you apply for a police information or vulnerable sector check in Alberta, there will be a reported entry as “Alternative Measures / Extrajudicial Sanctions – No Criminal Convictions.” This will only be reported for a period of one year.
You can apply to the police agency to have the information purged from their database system. It may be important to do this for immigration or employment purposes. However, there is a waiting period. If you need more information on how to do this, please contact one of our lawyers.
If you employed in healthcare, education or work with a vulnerable sector of the population, you may be required to complete a “vulnerable sector check” for your employment. If you are employed in one of these fields, you should consult with a lawyer before accepting the Alternative Measures program to obtain proper legal advice.
OBTAINING SEXUAL SERVICES – “STOP” PROGRAM
If you are charged with attempting to pay for sexual services contrary to section 286.1(1) of the Criminal Code and have no criminal record, you will likely qualify for the Alternative Measures Program. However, the requirements for this specific offence are different than simply doing volunteer work or making a charitable donation. The “STOP”, or Sex Trade Offender Program, formerly known as “John School,” is a type of Alternative Measures program for people with no criminal record who are charged with attempting to purchase some kind of sexual service.
Participants in this program are required to attend a full day seminar where the effects and impacts of sex trade work are discussed. Unlike other Alternative Measures programs, there is a cost associated with STOP. Once you have successfully completed the program, the charges are withdrawn in court. Our lawyers can provide you with more information on this program and how to register.
HIRING A LAWYER
Although the Alternative Measures Program is a very good outcome, it does require an individual to admit responsibility for the act underlying the criminal charge. This admission of responsibility cannot be used against them in criminal or civil proceedings but a record of the person’s participation in the Alternative Measures program will remain for a period of time. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice before deciding to participate in the Alternative Measures program. Please contact one of our lawyers at Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey for a free consultation if you have any questions or require further information.