Under Pennsylvania law, crimes come in three major tiers. There are the really bad offenses like murder and drug offenses, which are felonies. There are middle of the road offenses like Simple Assault and Robbery, which are Misdemeanors. And, there are low level offenses called Summary Offenses.
By definition, a Summary Offense is any crime that is so designated as a Summary Offense, or any crime that comes with a penalty of less than 90 days in jail or a fine of not more than about $300.00. Summary Offenses come with no arrest record and generally do not leave you with permanent record if you are convicted of committing such a crime.
The following are common Summary Offenses that you may have heard of:
Often times, people are charged with summary offenses and assume there is no need for an attorney to assist at a preliminary hearing. This may or may not be true. The benefit to having an attorney is so that you know what you are getting yourself into before you go to your preliminary hearing. What if you are charged with a summary offense that carries jail time? Do you want to sit in jail for 90 days because you did not know you could fight your charges? Also, most people are charged with more than one summary offense at a time. That means more than 90 days in jail and double the fines.
An experienced attorney is often able to help you significantly at preliminary hearings when summary offenses are involved. Also, if you confess to a summary offense, an experienced attorney knows how to appeal that summary offense and possibly get it dismissed.
Summary Offenses are actually useful when you are charged with greater offenses. This means that when you are charged with a misdemeanor, a Prosecutor may offer you to plead guilty to a summary offense at your preliminary hearing instead of being tried and convicted of the misdemeanor. If you plead to the correct summary offense, this could mean no jail time, lower fines, and no permanent record. Again, while you might not think an attorney is necessary, this is one time when an experienced attorney can help immensely.
Finally, Pennsylvania allows you to expunge your Summary Offense record. All you have to do is wait five years from the date of your conviction, and you can petition a court to remove the conviction from your record. This will help with employment, loans, renting an apartment, and joining the military.
If any of the above applies to you, I am able to help. When I am at preliminary hearings for my clients and waiting to get in front of the judge, I take time to speak with others who are at the District Justice’s office without an attorney. I often hear that people have had multiple summary offenses in the past that they could have fought if they had an attorney. Now, they are in court as a repeat offender. I always hear that people did not call an attorney because they think they cannot afford one. That is not true.
If you are charged with a summary offense, and you think you cannot afford a private attorney, give me a call at (412) 209-0657 or contact us.