While most people are familiar with criminal charges like misdemeanors and felonies, there are even lesser offenses called summary offenses. These offenses rarely result in jail time, and many defendants are confused as to whether a summary offense constitutes an actual crime.
Summary offenses are legally considered crimes and will be included in your criminal record. In most cases, summary offenses are met with citations, and you must pay a fine to clear it. Many defendants never actually see the inside of a courtroom because of a summary offense. Before paying any fines or signing any paperwork, you should talk to a lawyer about how to fight the summary offense. A conviction for a summary offense might still show up in background checks and cause trouble. If you were already convicted of a summary offense, you can work to have it expunged from your record.
Summary offenses are crimes that may cause trouble if you do not handle them carefully. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your citation or get it expunged. For a free case assessment, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
Is a Summary Offense Considered a Crime in Philadelphia?
Criminal offenses in Philadelphia fall into one of three tiers: felonies, misdemeanors, and summary offenses. Felonies are perhaps the most serious criminal offense a person can be charged with, and misdemeanors are ranked below felonies. Summary offenses are minor offenses and the least serious of the three categories, but they are still legally classified as crimes.
Summary offenses are relatively minor, non-violent offenses typically met with a citation and fine rather than any real jail time. However, jail time might still be possible in some cases. Common summary offenses include petty retail theft, disorderly conduct, providing a fake ID, and underage drinking. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys have experience with various summary offenses and can help you fight the charges.
While these offenses are not the most serious, they are still included in a person’s criminal record after a conviction. This means that a potential employer running a background check will see these convictions. Whether the potential employer takes any adverse action because of a summary offense depends on the employer and the job.
How to Fight a Summary Offense in Philadelphia
Many defendants are unaware they can challenge a summary offense. Many defendants are issued citations from law enforcement that require the payment of a fine, and these defendants often simply pay the fine without thinking of the consequences. If you pay the fine, you might end up pleading guilty to the offense, and it will be reflected on your record. Instead, you should take the citation to our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys for review, and we can help you challenge it.
How we approach your defense depends on what you were cited for. For example, suppose you were in a crowd of rowdy people when you were cited for disorderly conduct. If you did not have anything to do with the cord of people but were simply passing through, we can raise this issue as part of your defense.
We can also challenge the credibility of the police officer who issued you the situation. For example, suppose you were issued a citation for underage drinking, but the officer never actually saw you with alcohol or had any probable cause that you were intoxicated. Without this evidence, there is no basis for the citation.
What Happens if I am Convicted of a Summary Offense in Philadelphia?
The penalties are typically not very severe if you are convicted of a summary offense. Most summary offenses are citations that come with a fine. Unfortunately, the fines can be very expensive. It is not unusual to see summary offenses with fines of several hundred dollars or more. There is rarely any jail time, but incarceration is not impossible. You should speak to our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys to determine if jail time is possible in your case.
Many citations provide directions on what steps you should take next. Of course, the instructions for paying the fine are often crystal clear, but defendants are often unaware they can challenge the citation. This might involve a court hearing where you can have an attorney present. Because summary offenses are so minor, there is no jury, and the overall hearing is likely to be informal.
If convicted, any fines related to the summary offense must be paid, and the conviction will be a part of your criminal record. Summary convictions do not always present serious complications as they are relatively minor, although you may want to disclose the conviction to employers. Our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys can help you fight the citation before your conviction to avoid future problems.
Clearing a Summary Offense from Your Record in Philadelphia
If you have already been convicted of a summary offense, you might want to explore the possibility of having it expunged from your criminal record. Depending on your circumstances, you might not have to wait very long to expunge a summary offense. There are different expungement eligibility requirements for people convicted as juveniles versus adults.
If you were convicted of a summary offense as a juvenile and are now an adult, you can petition to expunge the conviction from your record if at least 6 months have passed since paying your fine in full. If you were an adult when you were convicted, you must wait five years and remain arrest and conviction-free during this time before petitioning for an expungement. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you review your legal options after a conviction for a summary offense.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help
While you should not panic over a summary offense, you also should not underestimate the possibility of a conviction. Summary offenses are crimes and will be reflected in your record. Our Delaware County criminal defense attorney can help you avoid conviction. For a free case evaluation, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.