While our office prides itself on our trial work, some of the best outcomes are the result of negotiations with the Crown Prosecutors office. This is because all client files are different. As such, there is not always a need for a lengthy trial when the client’s goals can be satisfied with an alternative resolution.
What is the Alternative Measures Program (AMP)?
One such resolution is having the client participate in the Alternative Measures Program (AMP). AMP is a diversionary program that is typically available for first-time offenders who have been charged with relatively low-end offences. These offences may include:
- Mischief to property
- Theft under $5000
- Causing a disturbance, or
- Uttering a forged document
Matters that are deemed ineligible typically include crimes of violence as well as most sexual offences. While it is uncommon for these types of charges to be diverted by way of Alternative Measures, our office has been successful in the past in convincing prosecutors to go this route. There are a number of benefits to having a file proceed in this fashion.
What are the benefits of the Alternative Measures Program?
The primary benefit of the program is that, upon completion, the client will not receive a criminal record. This is always the ultimate goal. It is the lawyer’s role to persuade the Crown to admit the client into the program. This is often accomplished by way of an Early Case Resolution (ECR) meeting.
How a client is admitted to the program
The Calgary Crown prosecutor’s office includes an ECR Unit whose sole purpose is to attempt to resolve files. Defence lawyers are able to book ECR meetings with a prosecutor with an aim of resolving the file without the need for a trial. As the Crown must be convinced to divert the matter to AMP, it is imperative that the defence lawyer have a good handle on the facts of the case, the client’s background, as well as the relevant law.
Once the Crown agrees to divert the matter to Alternative Measures, the client will sign an AMP form indicating that they have taken responsibility for the offence. This is not the same thing as a guilty plea but is required for entry into the program.
Once the form is submitted:
- The client is contacted by a probation officer a few weeks later
- The probation officer will then execute an Alternative Measures agreement
- The client is required to complete some task that is commensurate to the severity of the offence.
The task can include community service hours, a charitable donation, or even the completion of a written essay. Once these requirements are fulfilled, the file is brought back to court where the charges are formally withdrawn.
What happens after charges are drawn?
As a courtesy to our clients, we then contact Ottawa seeking the destruction of the client’s fingerprints and photographs. While AMP is typically a one-time resolution, clients are eligible to participate in the program provided they have not had a file diverted in the past 5 years. In the past, we’ve had numerous clients complete the program multiple times.
While no one ever wishes to get charged with a criminal offence, dealing with a file by way of AMP serves to ensure an unblemished criminal record. It also circumvents the need for trial time as the file is typically concluded within 3 to 4 months.