Summary offenses may seem like a small matter that will go away if you pay the fine. But paying the fine means admitting guilt. Summary offenses should not be taken lightly and can be fought in court. You could wind up with a criminal record that will follow you the rest of your life. If you are convicted of a summary offense or plead guilty (pay the fine), the conviction could be made public and searchable by anyone running a background check: future employers, landlords and financial lenders, college admission personnel, the military or government clearance.
You could wind up with a criminal record that will follow you the rest of your life.
What is a Summary Offense?
Being charged with a summary offense means you were charged with a crime. Minor crimes such as underage drinking, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and petty shoplifting are often tried as summary offenses.
A police officer can issue a summary offense (citation) at the time of the offense, during an arrest or even days later in the mail. If you pay the fine, that means you will be pleading guilty and therefore may end up with a criminal record.
Summary offenses are typically punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
Summary offenses are typically punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine. For underage drinking offenses or traffic citations your license could also be suspended. If you received more than one summary offense at a time, these penalties will add up – you could be punished for up to six months in jail for two summary offenses.
What Happens After You Are Charged With a Summary Offense?
In situations such as an arrest for disorderly conduct or public drunkenness, the person charged will be taken to jail and then a hearing will ensue. The hearing could happen immediately or at a later date.
If you were charged with retail theft, you may be fingerprinted and therefore will have a criminal record. This could severely limit your chances of finding employment in the future.
If you fail to respond to a Summary Offense Citation in Pennsylvania, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
For more information see the Pennsylvania Code for Procedures in Summary Cases. You can also refer to the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Consumer Legal Information Pamphlet on Traffic Violations and Summary Offenses.
List of Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania
A few of the most common summary offense include:
- Disorderly Conduct
- Underage Drinking
- Public Drunkenness / Public Intoxication
- Public Urination
- Retail Theft (First offense, below $150 value)
- Service Theft (Under $50)
- Using Shopping Carts Illegally
- Not Adhering to Dog Laws
- Ticket Scalping
- Criminal Mischief
- Opening Fire Hydrants
- Defiant Trespassing
Obstructing a Highway
- Retention of Library Property after Notice to Return
- Traffic Offenses
Get Legal Help With Your Summary Offense
Even if you plan on pleading guilty, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney right away. Our criminal defense lawyers can help with the legal proceedings and the hearings. We may be able to negotiate a reduction of charges and punishment.
If you have already pled guilty, there may still be time to make an appeal. Contact our criminal lawyers right away. There are time restrictions on how long after a conviction you can make an appeal. Don’t give in by paying the fine – fight to keep your record clean. Contact our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation.