Information on Summary Offense Charges in Pennsylvania
What is a Summary Offense and What Happens if I Pay the Fine?
Am I Convicted or Guilty if I Pay a Fine for a Summary Offense?
While summary offenses are generally the most mild crimes and do not carry as harsh a penalty as felonies and misdemeanors, they should not be taken lightly.
Most people receive a citation for a summary offense in the mail and decide it is easier to plead guilty, pay the fine, and move on. However, there are a number of reasons why a summary offense should be taken seriously and why pleading guilty may not be in your best interest.
Talk to a Summary Offense Lawyer in PA before you pay the fine. Justin Ketchel offers free legal case evaluations—call him today at 412-456-1221.
Being found guilty of a summary offense can still come with some jail time, fines, and can be seen on your criminal record.
A summary offense conviction will show up on a criminal background check. If an employer asks if you have ever been found guilty of a crime, you will have to answer yes.
Any criminal background can create difficulty obtaining employment—or trouble in your current job. It can also affect admission to schools and getting approved for housing.
WHAT TYPES OF CRIMES ARE SUMMARY OFFENSES IN PENNSYLVANIA?
There are a number of crimes that fall into the category of a summary offense in Pennsylvania.
Some of the most commonly charged summary offenses include:
- Disorderly Conduct
- Public Intoxication
- Retail Theft
- Underage Drinking
- Criminal Trespass
- Criminal Mischief
Depending on the type of crime, and the specific circumstances and behavior in your case, the police may, or may not, decide to detain you. In most summary offense cases, the offender is simply given, or mailed, a citation.
A citation should state a brief statement of the facts and explain which law was violated and how. The citation will also give the offender directions regarding how to respond and when and where to appear in court for their hearing.
Generally, you have ten days to respond to a citation. Most people decide at this point that it is easier to plead guilty and pay the fine. However, as stated, this is an offense that will show up on your criminal record. In order to fight your summary offense charges, you have to plead not guilty and request a hearing date.
It is important to remember that a summary offense hearing is a criminal proceeding. Failure to appear at a scheduled court hearing is an additional offense, and a bench warrant could be issued for your arrest.
Alternatively, the judge could determine to move forward with your case without you present and you will be forced to deal with whatever consequences are handed down.
PUNISHMENT FOR A SUMMARY OFFENSE
If you are found guilty of a summary offense in Pennsylvania, you can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and up to $300 in fines.
In addition, if your actions caused damages, you may be ordered to pay restitution. For example, if you were found defacing property, you may be responsible to pay the building owner for the clean-up costs to restore the building to normal.
APPEALING A SUMMARY OFFENSE IN PENNSYLVANIA
It is possible to appeal a summary offense. Generally, the local district court where you the offense took place is responsible for handling your case.
To appeal your case, you must do so within thirty (30) days of your original hearing by filing the proper paperwork. Once you have submitted your document and filed it, you will be given a new trial date in the court of common pleas.
Even if you have pled guilty and paid the fine, you may still appeal your case. However, you must do so within thirty (30) days of your plea.
EXPUNGEMENT OF A SUMMARY OFFENSE
Having a criminal offense on your public record can cause damage to your reputation and added hassle to your life. If you have been found guilty of a summary offense, there is still a way to get that offense off of your record.
If you were 18 years or older at the time of the offense, you must make no criminal offenses of any kind for a period of five (5) years. This includes any type of criminal offense—not just an additional summary offense. As long as your record has remained clear for five years and you have paid all of your fines, you can request that the court expunge the summary offense from your record. Once the expungement takes place, there will be no trace of the summary offense on your record any longer and you can answer truthfully that you have never been convicted of a crime.
An experienced Pittsburgh criminal attorney can help you with the expungement process.
If you were under the age of 18 at the time of the offense, you are eligible to request that the summary offense be expunged from your record once you turn 18 and six months after paying any and all fines.
The help of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can be invaluable in getting your record cleared. If you have been found guilty of a summary offense and need help with record expungement, you should call immediately for a free consultation.
OUR CLIENTS COME FIRST
We understand that our clients are often under a great deal of stress. That’s why we take the time to fully understand your needs and explain your rights under the law.
A summary offense should be taken seriously.
Justin Ketchel is experienced in all areas of the law and will work with you to get the best possible outcome for your case.
Call Ketchel Law at 412-456-1221 for a free legal consultation.
If you have received a citation for a summary offense, or have reason to believe you may be cited, or if you believe you need legal help dealing with a summary offense charge hearing or record expungement, call Justin Ketchel immediately at (412) 456-1221 or contact him online.
During the initial free consultation, Attorney Ketchel will listen to your concerns and work with you to achieve the best outcome possible. The sooner you call, the better his chances of preparing your defense, finding witnesses to aid in your defense, and ultimately winning your case or lessoning the charges.
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