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Can You Go to Jail for a Summary Offense in Pennsylvania?

Summary offenses are the lowest classification of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania. The penalties for summary offenses are less severe than those for felonies and misdemeanors, but you may still face jail time, fines, or both if the prosecutor secures a conviction. While a strong Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help you seek a favorable outcome, it’s still helpful to understand what’s at stake when you face a summary offense charge.

Examples of Summary Offenses

A wide variety of crimes are classified as summary offenses in Pennsylvania, including:

  • Most traffic offenses
  • Retail theft, if less than $150 and a first offense
  • Criminal mischief resulting in property damage
  • Possession of a fake ID
  • Underage drinking
  • Public intoxication
  • Purchasing alcohol or tobacco by minors
  • Harassment
  • Disorderly conduct

While summary offenses are relatively minor, especially when compared with offenses that rise to the level of felonies, this doesn’t mean you should take the charges lightly. Summary offenses can still carry serious penalties, and the consequences of a conviction may extend beyond the legal realm and affect other areas of your life.

Penalties for Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania

Authorities will issue a citation for a summary offense either in person or by mail. In some cases, if the summary offense creates a public spectacle, an offender may be placed under arrest. Regardless, receiving a citation for a summary offense constitutes notification that the police are charging you with a crime. Do not ignore the citation — failure to respond will make the situation worse. Instead, reach out to a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your legal options.

Most non-traffic summary offenses carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine, although certain offenses may carry different penalties. Some offenses carry additional penalties, as well. If you’re convicted of multiple summary offenses, the penalties will be combined.

Traffic offenses, meanwhile, typically carry a penalty of a $25 fine and payment of court costs. Again, there may be additional penalties, including imprisonment, in cases involving certain violations.

On top of these legal penalties, you may face damage to your reputation, as well as challenges with employment, rental housing, education, and professional licensure that may result from having the offense on your public record.

Expungement of Summary Offenses

If convicted of a summary offense, you may be eligible to have the conviction expunged. If your conviction occurred before you turned 18, it can be expunged six months after you pay your fine once you’ve turned 18. If your conviction occurred after you turned 18, you can pursue expungement five years after your case concluded, provided you were not arrested at any point in those five years. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about whether your case may be eligible for expungement and to learn about the process.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania Today

If you’re facing charges for a summary offense in Pennsylvania, you need an attorney who can help you pursue the most favorable outcome possible. Chieppor & Egner, LLC, brings years of experience to our work with criminal defendants and takes pride in our track record of successfully helping Pennsylvanians avoid life-altering penalties. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today to discuss your case in a free consultation.

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