While many of our firm’s criminal cases go to trial, there are a number of diversion programs that provide good non-trial alternatives to trial for our clients in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to entering into any diversion program, its important, however, that you review the elements of the criminal offense against you and understand that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution to establish those elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The Accelerated Misdemeanor Program is a diversion option for non-violent offenders that is divided into two tiers.
AMP I is reserved for non-violent, first time offenders charged with misdemeanors. While a person may qualify for the program, it is important to understand that acceptance is at the discretion of the District Attorney’s office. Defendants who are accepted into the program complete 12-18 hours of community service and pay court costs. Prior to entering the program, the defendant will go before a judge who will colloquy the person as to their understanding of the terms and conditions of the program.
Defendants have a limited time to complete the conditions of the program, and this is typically 5 weeks after acceptance. If the terms and conditions are not completed after 5 weeks, a judge may grant an extension. The defendant, through his attorney, must provide proof that he or she has met the terms and conditions. Once the program is complete the prosecution is withdrawn.
Keep in mind that if the defendant fails to comply with the terms of the program or gets arrested while completing AMP, his or her AMP acceptance will be revoked and the case will be sent to a trial room. If, however, the program is completed and the prosecution is withdrawn, the person is eligible for an expungement without opposition.
The AMP program isn’t limited to first time offenders. For those with a limited number of convictions or non-violent prior arrests there is AMP II. Similar to AMP I, acceptance is at the discretion of the DA’s office and defendants are required to complete community service or a dependency treatment program, along with court costs. Whether a person must complete community service or a treatment program is based on the evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the person’s offense. Defendants will receive an initial screening in court and if dependency treatment is required, they will be provided with a course of treatment and additional instructions.
Defendants, who reside outside of Philadelphia County or have private insurance, have the option to seek treatment on their own. Typically defendants’ who are not deemed to be drug or alcohol dependent are offered community service, which is generally 24-36 hours. The length of alcohol or drug treatment is based on the results of a persons’ evaluation. If the defendant is able to arrange treatment and makes exceptional progress through the program, a person can typically complete AMP 2 within 3 months. Those defendants’ in AMP who aren’t required to complete treatment but only community service can complete the program much quicker.
Unlike the AMP I program, a person who fails to complete the AMP II, will not proceed to trial, but rather have to face sentencing, which could include probation or jail. Unlike AMP I, AMP II participants enter into a negotiated, stipulated trial where they are found guilty but not sentenced. Persons who participate in AMP 2 typically aren’t eligible for expungement unless their case is disposed of under Section 17 or Section 18.
The AMP programs are good options in Philadelphia County if there is a high probability that a person will be convicted at trial and face jail or a much longer probation period than the time it would take to complete the AMP requirements. The most common offense for the AMP program are those charged with buying or possessing drugs and not those charged with Possession with the Intent to Deliver or Manufacture Drugs or Narcotics (PWID). In addition to violent offenses, the following offenses are not eligible for the AMP program: DUI, gun, firearms, or weapons charges, and any charge involving domestic violence.
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