Is a Summary Offense a Crime?February 21, 2021
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.