Some offences may not be deemed severe enough to warrant jail time or conviction. Hence, the Crown may deem prosecution unnecessary or even detrimental.
For less serious offences committed by first-time offenders, the Crown can divert proceedings away from Canada’s criminal justice system. This “diversion” is called the Alternative Measures Program.
The Alternative Measures Program or AMP is a way of penalizing an offender. It allows an offender to admit accountability for the charges and allow the Crown to prescribe alternative ways of rehabilitation and reparation.
Since an alternative measure is negotiated with the Crown before prosecution, those who undergo the AMP do not receive a jail sentence or a criminal record.
What Are Alternative Measures?
The Crown could ask for sentences that could lead to time in prison. This is especially the case with offenders proven guilty of serious charges like those involving serious assaults, firearm use, and sexual crimes. Severe sentences are also given for crimes where children are victims.
If cases are less severe, the Crown in exercising restraint towards legal proceedings may propose a different form of punishment. These are alternative measures, also called diversion in other provinces.
Instead of serving a jail sentence, offenders accepted into the Alternative Measures Program may perform certain activities. These activities have one goal- the rehabilitation of the offender.
Rehabilitative or reparative activities may involve rendering community service for a duration the Crown prescribes. Offenders under the program may also make amends for their charges by:
- Donating to a charity
- Getting therapy or counselling
- Compensating victims
- Doing volunteer work
The required actions vary per case. The Crown ensures that the appropriate compensatory action is appropriate to the charges of the offender, as per section 717(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Once an offender completes alternative measures, the charges against his or her will be withdrawn or stayed. As a result, he or she will have no criminal record and the completed alternative measures will have taken the place of a jail sentence.
Who Could Be Eligible For The AMP?
Section 717 of the Criminal Code of Canada enumerates the requirements and conditions for eligible candidates for the Alternative Measures Program.
Admission Of Responsibility
The most fundamental condition to be eligible for the AMP is an admission of responsibility. In other words, an offender who wishes to be accepted into the AMP needs to admit responsibility for his or her actions.
An admission of responsibility is not an admission of guilt. Hence, such an admission is not incriminating.
In determining the utility of alternative measures, the Crown also considers the circumstances of the offender.
One circumstance is whether the offender has a prior criminal record. For first-time offenders, the Crown may decide against further prosecution and suggest alternative measures.
Offenders Charged With “Minor Offences”
Lesser charges could warrant alternative measures if an offender meets the first two conditions.
Minor offences are otherwise known as summary offences. These offences are tried without the presence of a jury and indictment (which is for more serious offences).
In Canada, examples of minor offences are:
- Public nudity
- Drunk and disorderly conduct
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Acts of disrespect in court or towards a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
- Falsification of employment records
- Possession of a controlled substance
Offenders Who Are Adults
The AMP is reserved specifically for adult offenders.
Cases of minors who meet the above conditions are tried under a separate act. They are tried under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Alternative measures for minors are known as Extrajudicial Measures.
Offenders Not Deemed A Risk To The Community
The Crown reserves alternative measures for offenders thought not to pose a risk to the community.
Investigative authorities and enforcement agencies must issue statements. Also, an offender may have to prove that alternative measures would be more beneficial to himself and the community.
How Alternative Measures Would Benefit You
If you have been charged with a minor offence, you might have to spend time in jail, pay a fine, or both. In addition, charges against you could be recorded as part of your criminal history, giving you a criminal record.
However, choosing to admit your responsibility for a crime with which you have been charged enables you with your criminal defence lawyer to negotiate for alternative measures.
Applying to be admitted into the AMP could benefit you in the following ways:
Charged But With No Criminal Record
Even if you have been charged with a crime, completing actions prescribed by the Crown can lead to the withdrawal of these charges.
With the charges withdrawn, no record of them will appear on a criminal record. The absence of a criminal history can reduce barriers to:
- Finding work
- Getting a loan
- Opening a bank account
To Avoid Loss Of Status in Canada And Future Inadmissibility
A criminal record may affect the offender’s eligibility to sponsor parents, grandparents, spouses, and family members for immigration. Depending on the crime, a permanent resident or foreign national could lose their status in Canada and be deported.
With the aid of a criminal defence lawyer, alternative measures can be negotiated so that matters do not escalate to loss of status, deportation, a criminal record, or being prohibited from sponsoring a family member.
No Jail Time And No Fine
Alternative measures were proposed as an alternative to jail time for crimes. As well, depending on the nature of the crime, you may not have to pay a fine unless required by the Crown as part of the diversions.
Seek A Lawyer If You Are Eligible For Alternative Measures
Have you been convicted of a minor offence for the first time in British Columbia? You may be eligible for the province’s Alternative Measures Program.
To get yourself closer to being accepted, you will need an experienced criminal defence lawyer.
If you think you qualify for the Alternative Measures Program, get in touch with Dale Melville Law.