"AMP" stands for Accelerated Misdemeanor Program and is one of the several pre-trial diversion programs established through the efforts of Philadelphia Municipal Court and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Philadelphia Municipal Court prides itself on developing new ways of handling cases and social issues; particularly in establishing problem solving courts and working closely with external agencies in its efforts. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office takes a similar view regarding pre-trial diversion: its goals is to prevent future crime and preserve judicial resources through non-traditional prosecution. AMP is a reflection of these efforts and philosophies and can help a defendant avoid a criminal record after being arrested and charged with a crime in Philadelphia.
There are two kinds of "AMP" programs in Philadelphia that certain defendants may be eligible for as an alternative to proceeding to trial. "AMP I", also known as "Tier I AMP", is one such program. "AMP II", also known as "Tier II AMP", is the other version.
The following article will explain the particulars of Philadelphia's AMP I program.
What is AMP I?
AMP I is a less intensive version of the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program that allows eligible defendants a chance to avoid a criminal conviction by completing certain proscribed conditions; namely, completing community service and paying reduced court costs and fines.
Who is eligible for AMP I?
Non-violent first-time offenders charged with a misdemeanor (or misdemeanors) in Philadelphia are generally the preferred candidate for AMP I. Defendants are accepted at the sole discretion of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and only after a careful review of their cases and circumstances.
How will my case be addressed if I enter the AMP I program?
The defendant does not make a plea of any kind. In other words, the defendant does not plead guilty, does not plead not guilty, does not plead no contest, and so forth. The defendant's criminal case is instead maintained in a pre-trial status posture. If the defendant successfully completes the AMP I program, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, known as the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (or "Commonwealth" for short) in such court proceedings, will withdraw prosecution of the case.
What will I have to do if I enter the AMP I program?
Defendants who are eligible for AMP I and accept the program are required to complete either 12 or 18 hours of community service and pay court costs to the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (which the judicial body that governs Philadelphia Municipal Court, among other Philadelphia courts).
Defendants who accept an AMP I offer are "colloquied" by the judge who is assigned the case. When a defendant is colloquied, the judge (or sometimes the assistant district attorney, but more often than not the judge in Philadelphia AMP cases) will ask the defendant a series of questions to determine that what the defendant is doing (entering the AMP I program) is being done purposefully, voluntarily and intelligently, and to also make certain that the defendant understand the charges against him/her, the penalties that he/she will face f they do not successfully complete the AMP I program, and his/her rights before entering Philadelphia's AMP I program.
After being colloquied, the defendant must meet with the community service coordinator prior to leaving court. Details on community service sites are provided by the community service coordinator. Defendants who live outside of Philadelphia have two options: 1) they can complete community service at a site in Philadelphia as arranged with the court; or 2) they can locate an appropriate place to do community service outside of Philadelphia and provide documentation of the completed community service at the applicable time. If defendants who live outside of Philadelphia prefer to do community services closer to where they live or work for example, as long as the where the community service is complete is a non-profit agency, that would be acceptable. A YMCA or Salvation Army are some of the more available non-profit agencies that will allow participants in Philadelphia's AMP I program to complete community service and will provide documentation once it is completed.
Where will I have to go to court for AMP I in Philadelphia?
A defendant who is approved to resolve his/her criminal case through the AMP I program will be scheduled for court either at the 24th and 25th Philadelphia Police District, located at 3901 Whitaker Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19124, or at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice, located at1301 Filbert Street Philadelphia
AMP I cases scheduled for court at the CJC are only heard on Tuesday in courtroom 405. AMP I cases at the 24th and 25th Police District are often scheduled to start much earlier than the time that the judge actually takes the bench.
Where can I pay my AMP I court costs?
Payment for court costs can be made online or in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center; as above, located at1301 Filbert Street Philadelphia
How long will I have to complete AMP I?
Defendants are generally required to have their AMP I requirements completed within five weeks of accepting the terms of the program. A defendant can of course complete his/her obligations earlier. After the defendant enters the AMP I program, a court date will be scheduled in approximately five weeks to determine the status of the defendant's community service and whether the court costs and fines have been paid.
What happens if I do not complete my AMP I requirements in time?
If a defendant is unable to complete either the required community service or pay the required court costs in full after five weeks, the judge may provide an extension at the status listing depending on the circumstances. A defendant's attorney will be instrumental in making this happen is an extension of time is necessary.
At the first status listing, a defendant is expected to provide documentation that at least half of his/her community service is complete and that at least half of their fines and costs have been paid.
What happens after I complete the AMP I program?
Once a defendant has provided documentation to the court that all program requirements have been completed, the defendant will have been deemed to have successfully completed the AMP I program. If a defendant is able to provide such documentation to the court five days prior to his/her next court date, the defendant's presence can be waived at the next status listing (whether that is the first or second status listing for example).
Once the completion of a defendant's community service and payment of court costs and fines is verified, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will withdraw prosecution of the defendant's case. If, however, the defendant fails to comply with the terms of the AMP I program or is arrested on new charges before completing the program, AMP I will be revoked and the defendant's case will be sent to a trial room for trial or non-trial disposition (pleading guilty in other words if there are no trial-able issues).
Can I get my case expunged after I complete the AMP I program?
If a defendant successfully completes the AMP I program, the defendant will be eligible for an expungement of his/her arrest record and charge(s). It should be noted, however, that expungement of a defendant's case after completing AMP I is not automatic.
To seek an expungement in Philadelphia, the defendant or his/her attorney can petition the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas - Criminal Division to expunge all records related to the case. When a defendant or his/her attorney petitions the Philadelphia Court for an expungement of a criminal record, the expungement process in Philadelphia takes approximately four to six months from start to finish. The Philadelphia Court charges a $147 filing fee.
Once an expungement order is granted by the Philadelphia Court, it is forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police and the Philadelphia Police Department for those agencies to expunge the defendant's records. The Pennsylvania State Police will forward the expungement order to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to request that the FBI update its records. Because the FBI is a federal agency, it is not bound by Pennsylvania law, and accordingly, is not bound by a Philadelphia expungement order. Nonetheless, the FBI will, as a courtesy, generally update its records to minimize the impact of the defendant's Philadelphia arrest and charge(s). In most instances, it will take the Philadelphia Police Department longer than the Pennsylvania State Police to clear a defendant's records. Both the Pennsylvania State Police and the Philadelphia Police Department will provide notice to the defendant, through the defendant's attorney, that the defendant's records were expunged. (As noted above, the total length of time it will generally take for a person's criminal record to be cleared by the Philadelphia Court, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Pennsylvania State Police is approximately four to six months once the expungement process is started.)
Attorney to Help with Philadelphia's Accelerated Misdemeanor Program | Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
When arrested in Philadelphia and charged with a crime, the path forward can be difficult if the proper steps are not taken, especially for a first-time offender. Because Philadelphia's Accelerated Misdemeanor Program offers someone who made a mistake a second chance, it is often an excellent way to make the best out of bad situation.