The warm summer months in and around Philadelphia typically see a significant increase in summary offenses being issued by the police for all manner of alleged infractions. The reasons for this vary, but keep in mind that every criminal charge or non-traffic citation should be taken seriously, regardless if it is a felony, misdemeanor, or what’s often considered to be lesser summary offenses.

The consequences of any conviction can affect your life for years, even if you aren’t sentenced to time in prison. For most people, the prospect of paying expensive fines or spending a few days in jail is more than enough to turn your life upside-down. So, if you’ve been charged with a summary offense in Philadelphia, it is always best to discuss your situation with an experienced and local criminal defense attorney.

At Fienman Defense, we know how serious your situation is to you. That’s why we work to get our clients the best possible result in every case. Call us today at (215) 839-9529 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We will discuss the details of your summary offense and how we can help.

What Is a Summary Offense?

Pennsylvania recognizes three categories of criminal offenses: felonies, misdemeanors, and summary offenses. Summary offenses are the least severe, but these can still complicate your life and result in a criminal conviction on your record.

Common non-traffic summary offenses include the following:

If convicted, the maximum penalties you could face are up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $300, unless otherwise specified by statute. Some convictions, such as underage drinking, may also result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

What Happens If You Are Charged with a Summary Offense

Summary offenses in Philadelphia are quite different from other criminal charges. An officer may simply hand you a citation – a piece of paper that looks like a traffic ticket. Alternatively, you may receive your citation in the mail a few days after the incident.

The citation may appear insignificant, but you need to be very careful. Read the entire document carefully, weigh your options, and understand the consequences of how you choose to proceed. If you aren’t sure about what you should do, a Philadelphia summary offense lawyer can provide you with guidance.

Pay Attention to the Deadlines

According to the PA criminal process, the citation should give you 10 days to respond, either by pleading guilty or not guilty. If you don’t respond, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. Therefore, make sure you don’t forget about it or let it get lost in the shuffle.

Many people receive summary offense citations and think that it will be a waste of time to fight it. This leads to a lot of people pleading guilty, figuring that they will have to pay a fine, and it will just go away. While this may be appropriate in some cases, in Philadelphia I generally advise against it. If you plead guilty, you are subject to whatever punishment the court imposes. This could include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. More importantly, it will create a mark against your criminal record, and a summary offense can be difficult to explain to future employers, professional licensing boards, or anyone reviewing your background.

Instead, we recommend that you initially plead not guilty and consult a lawyer. When you plead not guilty, your case will be scheduled for a hearing at a later date. Notice will be provided to you regarding the date, time, and location of your hearing. This gives you more time to consider your options, meet with a summary offense lawyer, and create a strategy for a favorable outcome.

At the hearing, you can still plead guilty if you choose, but if you don’t, the court will hold a trial. The prosecution will introduce evidence supporting the charge, and you will be allowed to be heard. Keep in mind that you will be obligated to comply with the court’s rules of procedure and evidence, which is challenging for non-lawyers. If you hire a summary offense attorney, they can help you navigate the hearing or perhaps avoid it altogether.

Pleading Guilty to Summary Offenses

Recognizing that people often plead guilty without fully understanding the consequences, Pennsylvania law does allow you to appeal summary offense convictions even if you entered a voluntary guilty plea. However, there are strict deadlines that apply, and it’s important that you contact a summary appeal lawyer as soon as possible. If you’ve missed the appeal deadline, you can discuss your eligibility to have the summary offense expunged, so a minor mistake doesn’t create problems for you down the line.

Fienman Defense Can Help

As you can see, summary offenses in Philadelphia are more serious than you may have thought. Aside from possible jail time and fines, the impact on your permanent record can cause embarrassment and other problems for years. At Fienman Defense, we help people get favorable results in every case, no matter how big or small. There are almost always options to improve your circumstances if you’re issued a citation for a summary offense.

Don’t just plead guilty thinking that it’s your only option. Instead, schedule a free consultation with an experienced Philadelphia summary offense attorney by calling attorney Michael Fienman at (215) 839-9529 or complete our online form.

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