Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania

Generally speaking, there are three levels of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania – felonies, misdemeanors, and summaries.  Ordinance violations, such as Open Container, meaning carrying an open beer or mixed drink in a cup in a public area, or Public Urination (self-explanatory), are not included because they are NOT criminal offenses.  An ordinance violation is a violation of a city or borough rule, so NOT a violation of Pennsylvania state law.  Some cities, like Philadelphia and State College, have decriminalized marijuana possession by passing ordinances that can be charged instead of criminal charges.  Common summary offenses include Underage Drinking, Public Drunkenness, Possession of a Fake ID, and Disorderly Conduct.

Sentence for Summary Offense

The sentence or punishment for a summary offense in normally a fine.  The maximum fine for most summary offenses is $300.00.  Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness are the exceptions, and a first offense carries a maximum fine of $500.00, and subsequent offenses carry a maximum fine of $1,000.00.  Judges rarely impose a sentence of jail in a summary case, but the law does allow for a maximum period of incarceration of 90 days.  Jail time is more likely to be imposed if the person has been in trouble quite a few times in the past and does not appear to be learning a lesson; or jail time is more likely if the underlying conduct was over-the-top egregious.

Summary Convictions Can Appear on Background Searches

Criminal defense lawyers in Pennsylvania disagree about whether or not a summary offense is a criminal offense.  To an extent, it does not matter what lawyers think.  What matters is what the employer looking to hire an applicant thinks.  If an employer sees a summary conviction for a charge like Underage Drinking, the employer is likely to think that the offense is a crime offense.  People want to know whether or not a conviction for a summary offense will appear on a criminal background search. Convictions for summary offenses may appear on criminal background searches.

The best way to avoid this issue is to try to get a summary charge dismissed and then expunged.  Hiring an experienced defense lawyer increases the probability of getting a favorable decision, either through fighting the case or through negotiating a resolution with the officer and judge.  The attorneys at JD Law, P.C., have a lot of experience and have won not guilty verdicts in summary cases.

For a free consultation, contact the State College criminal defense firm of JD Law, P.C., and speak with an experienced attorney.  Call (814) 954-7622 or contact us by email.