Summary offenses are the lowest level crimes in Pennsylvania and they are dealt with at the District Court level. In Pennsylvania, if you are convicted of a summary offense, it can be expunged from your record after five years. Common summary offenses include harassment, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, underage drinking and various traffic offenses. In the majority of cases, the defendant is given a citation by a police officer or a citation is mailed to the defendant.
You may also be arrested for a summary offense in certain situations and some summary offenses carry jail time as a punishment. So, as you can see, just because summary offenses are often considered minor, that does not mean you should not consult with an attorney.
When you receive a citation, also known as a “summons”, it will state the specific section of the law you allegedly violated and will provide instructions for how you should respond. Most of the time, you have only ten days to either plead guilty and pay a fine or plead not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the District Court will schedule a hearing. You are permitted to hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing, but typically you do not have the right to a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer.
If you do not respond to a summary citation at all, you can be arrested. In order to avoid arrest, you can pay the amount of the fine, plus additional costs as security for your appearance at the hearing, or you can plead guilty and pay the fine and costs.
It is a common misconception that any incorrect information on the citation makes it invalid. If the incorrect information is a minor mistake such as a misspelling of your name or listing the wrong color of your vehicle, the citation will still be valid. If there is a major mistake, however, such as listing the wrong section of the law you allegedly violated, the citation may be held invalid.
If you have received a citation for a summary offense, you will want to talk to an experienced attorney before simply pleading guilty and paying the fine. In some cases, your attorney might be able to negotiate with the officer prior to the hearing and avoid the hearing and criminal record entirely. The attorneys at the Masorti Law Group will aggressively defend your case and fight for the best resolution for your offense. Contact Us Now to talk with an attorney!