A distinguished lawyer call our office this morning to discuss a previous post on summary offenses, where the reader could interpret our post to mean that summary offenses are not crimes. He stated that under Commonwealth v. Matty, 619 A.2d 1383 (Pa. Super. 1993), certain summary offenses are in fact crimes because if you face jail time in a case, it is a criminal case. We are back to the same question, “Is a Summary Offense a Crime?”

First, summary offenses are broken into two categories, traffic offenses and non-traffic offenses. Certain traffic offenses are not criminal offenses, but can carry jail time. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with my colleage that if you are looking at jail time, the case that puts you in jail must be a crime.

Further, in Matty, the issue is whether a conviction for a summary conviction can stand when a crime was charged to the jury. The issue in the case is NOT whether a summary offense is a crime. Clearly, 18 Pa.C.S.A. sec. 106, defines all gradations of crimes and summaries are not listed. Therefore a summary offense is not a crime technically. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with my colleague regarding the syntax of the case and the PA Code.

However, summary offenses are reported to the Pennsylvania State Police and they pop-up on record checks (traffic offenses do not appear on criminal record checks). Regardless of how one reads the Matty case or sec. 106, if you are convicted of a Summary Offense, you may face jail time and the Summary Offense will come up in a criminal record check.

A Summary Offense is expungable and a Summary Offense is reported on a criminal record check. This debate about whether a Summary Offense is a criminal offense is of no moment. The real issue is whether a Summary conviction can effect your life and liberty? The answer is clearly: yes.  A skilled criminal defense attorney will see this and be able to offer help.

Usually we can expunge your summary offense from your record.

85 comments on “Is a Summary Offense a Crime?

  1. Hey Brian, my name is Alex, I am 17 going to be 18 tomorrow and am from PA. A couple weeks back, me and buddies were driving around and saw a lake to swim in. What we didn’t know was that it was a reservoir and did not allow swimming and only kayaking. Seeing others kayaking and jumping out of their kayaks into the water and being the dumb teenagers we are, we jumped in too. No visible signs were present. Today in the mail I received a notice that says summary for summons case. The charge is “34 721 A Control of Property Regulations”. The fine is $200 which is okay because I have money saved up, but I am more concerned about my future. I intend on going to further schooling after college (PA school to be precise) and the last thing I want is this to affect that. My mom is out of town and I haven’t spoken to my dad in years so I have nobody to talk to and am very worried. I don’t feel like this charge is fair and I have been through the court system too much with my parents lengthy divorce which is still ongoing. I just need professional information to give a little insight on what is happening. Thank you if you do read this, it would mean the world to me.

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