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Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania

January 22nd, 2009 by Brian Zeiger

Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania range from disorderly conduct to speeding tickets.  Summary offenses are broken down into two categories, traffic and non traffic offenses.  Non traffic summary offenses DO appear in criminal record history checks even though summary offenses are actually not criminal convictions like misdemeanors and felonies. Summary offenses are often reviewed by potential employers and should be taken seriously even though they are not criminal convictions.

Some of the most common summary offenses we see are disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, retail theft, and harassment. Often times when the police don’t really have any real crime to charge , but they want to assert their power against you, they use a summary offense as a guise to make a lawful arrest and say that your conduct was unlawful.

For example, I have had many cases where clients tell me that they observed the police making a bad arrest or physically inflicting harm against someone they were trying to arrest and my client started yelling at the officer about the way they were treating the other human being, or they were capturing the treatment on video from their cell phone. Another officer approaches my client and arrests them for disorderly conduct, and magically, their phone disappears.

Summary offenses are expungeable in Pennsylvania, even if convicted. If five years pass with no other incidents with the law, you may apply for an expungement with the Court of Common Pleas, and there will be a full hearing as to whether the summary conviction with be expunged. Unlike and ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), there is no automatic right to expungement–you must win the hearing.

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