Although the penalties for summary offenses are typically less imposing than those for felonies and misdemeanors, it’s important that you don’t take a summary offense charge lightly. A conviction can still impact many areas of your life.
If you or a loved one is facing this charge right now, we urge you to contact our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC. Led by Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Michael Worgul, we can help ensure you take the most beneficial course of action related to your charge. Michael and his team will fight to have your charge resolved at a preliminary hearing or achieve the best result for the mitigation or elimination of the legal consequences you are facing.
What Is a Summary Offense?
Other than murder, which has its own classification in Pennsylvania, there are three main categories of criminal offenses in the Commonwealth. They include: felonies, misdemeanors and summary offenses. Summary offenses in Pennsylvania can be divided into three sections:
Summary traffic offenses
Non-traffic summary offenses
Summary offenses under the PA Game and Wildlife Code
Although summary charges do not rise to the level of misdemeanors and felonies in terms of penalties imposed, they should still be taken seriously. The reason: a non-traffic summary offense can appear on a criminal background check, which can adversely affect your life for some time after you have served any jail time or paid a fine for the offense. As well, summary traffic offenses will become a part of your driving record.
Typical Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania
A range of activities may be classified as a summary offense in PA. They include:
- Underage drinking
- Disorderly conduct
- Public urination
- Public drunkenness / intoxication
- Traffic offenses
- Service theft (less than $50)
- Retail theft (first offense, less than $150 value)
- Illegal use of shopping carts
- Ticket scalping
- Opening fire hydrants
- Not adhering to dog laws
- Criminal mischief
- Obstructing a highway
- Defiant trespassing
- Retention of library property after notice to return
Receiving a Summary Offense Charge in PA
You may receive a summary offense citation in person by a police officer or by mail. In both cases, the citation informs you that you have been charged with a crime.
If the offense involves a public incident, such as public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, the accused offender will be taken to a local jail to await a hearing, which may take place the same day or be scheduled for a later date.
A failure to respond to a summary offense citation in Pennsylvania will cause a warrant to be issued by a judge for your arrest.
Summary Offense Penalties in PA
The penalties imposed by Pennsylvania for summary offenses are nothing to take lightly.
Conviction of a non-traffic summary offense carries a maximum penalty of 90 days incarceration and a $300 fine. You may also have to pay restitution if your crime involved theft or damage to someone’s property. If you are an underage drinking offender, you may also incur traffic citations or the suspension of your license. If you incur multiple summary offenses, the penalties are added together. For instance, a conviction of two summary offenses may land you in jail for a maximum of six months.
The Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code imposes penalties on those found guilty of violating laws restricting the trapping and killing of certain wildlife. There are eight divisions of offenses under this Code. The fines imposed by the Game Wildlife Code are generally higher than those imposed by the PA crimes code. For instance, a fine of $1,000 to $1,500 is imposed for a First Degree Summary Offense. A Second Degree Summary Offense carries a fine of $400 to $800.
Because fines can be added together if you’re convicted of multiple summary offenses in Pennsylvania, the financial burden can be great. It would benefit you to work with a criminal defense lawyer who can help you avoid conviction or decrease your penalties for these charges.
Additional Consequences of Conviction or Pleading Guilty
Even though summary offenses in Pennsylvania are considered to be lower rung crimes than something like a DUI misdemeanor, the consequences of pleading guilty can be significant to your future. If you plead guilty to a summary offense charge or receive a conviction, the conviction can be made public and become easily accessible to any person or entity running a background check. The conviction on your record can hinder you from gaining access to lenders, obtaining rental housing, retaining your professional license(s), receiving admission to college, accessing employment opportunities, and gaining clearance to government or military facilities.
Hunters convicted of a summary offense under the Game and Wildlife Code may have their hunting privileges suspended for a lengthy period of time.
Expungement of Summary Offense Criminal Record
Five years after receiving a summary offense conviction you can take legal action to have your charges and conviction expunged from your record. You can only do this if you have not been arrested during the last five years. If this is the case, call Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Michael Worgul to discuss having your summary offense expunged.
Contact a Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney
Have you been charged with a summary offense in the Commonwealth of PA? Don’t let the matter sit. Get the legal support you need to achieve the best outcome possible, which, depending on the circumstances, may result in a reduction or even elimination of your charge.