Legal Updates

Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP 1)

One of the reasons I choose to practice criminal defense is because I believe that many criminal defendants are essentially good people in bad situations. Recently, District Attorney R. Seth Williams has acknowledged this fundamental premise, and created a series of diversionary programs that place an emphasis on rehabilitation over retribution, or incarceration.  Many of the programs have been established in the last three years.  As such, a lot of criminal defense lawyers in Philadelphia do not yet know the ins and outs of application for, and admission into these potentially life saving alternatives.  For some people the lawyer’s knowledge of the right program will certainly mean the difference between a criminal record, and a second chance.  

Today, I would like to highlight one of the best diversionary programs available to non-violent first time offenders with limited prior contacts with the criminal system.  This program is called Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, or AMP (1).  I have disposed dozens of cases through this alternative program.

Here is the basic outlay of the program:
Non-violent first time offenders charged with a misdemeanor are the typical candidate for this program.  Defendants who have had a very limited number of prior contacts or a lengthy period of time between contacts with the courts may also be eligible for consideration.  Criminal defense attorneys  may apply for the program on behalf of their clients by petitioning to the relevant authority within the DA’s office. 

No plea is entered and the case is maintained in a statusing posture.  Upon successful completion of the program, the Commonwealth withdraws prosecution.  Therefore, the defendant avoids the prospect of a criminal record and essentially gets a second chance.

Defendants accepting the program are required to complete either 12 or 18 hours of community service and pay court costs and fines ($202.00).  Defendants accepting an AMP I offer are colloquied by the sitting Judge and must meet with the community service coordinator prior to leaving court.  Details on community service sites are provided by the coordinator.  Community service must be completed at an approved non-profit location. Payment is made in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center. 

Generally, defendants are expected to have their requirements fulfilled within five weeks of accepting the terms.  They may finish them earlier if they so desire.  If a defendant is unable to complete either the community service portion or pay the fines and costs in full after five weeks, the Judge may provide an extension.  The defendant must provide proof that at least half of their community service is complete and more than half of their fines and costs have been paid.

Defendants are expected to provide verification to court staff showing all requirements are satisfied, five days prior to their next court listing.  By completing their terms of the program and submitting them in advance, a defendant’s presence can be waived from future court dates.  Should a defendant fail to comply with the terms of the program or get arrested on new charges before completing the program, AMP will be revoked and the case will be sent to a trial room.

Upon successful completion, defendants are eligible for expungement without opposition.

AMP(1) is one tool in the trial lawyer’s arsenal to protect his client from a criminal record.  If your or a loved one is facing criminal charges, call us today for a free consultation.  We will use this tool, and all others at our disposal, to achieve the best possible results for the defendant in any given situation.

Source: Philadelphia District Attorney, Pre-Trial Diversionary Programs Manual