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Is a summary offense charge anything to worry about?

In the overall scheme of things, summary offenses in Pennsylvania might be easy to view as so much water off a duck's back. By description, they are lesser offenses than misdemeanors. And yet, a summary offense can result in serious consequences including terms of up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,500.

Perhaps more important, especially for young college students, is that while a summary offense does not constitute a criminal conviction, it becomes part of one's public record. That means it can be reported to a prospective employer doing a background checks and result in you being rejected for that job you want or need.

What falls under the summary offense umbrella?

Generally, there are two types of summary offenses; traffic and nontraffic offenses. The most common of the latter type would include:

  • Possession of fake identification
  • Underage drinking
  • Public drunkenness
  • Disorderly conduct

Summary offense might also be alleged for harassment, shoplifting or criminal mischief.

However, summary offenses can and have been brought under Pennsylvania's Game and Wildlife Code, too, as happened in the case of three Bloomsburg University students not long ago. Not only did the students face state charges, but also the possibility of punitive action from the school.

The lesson we would offer here is that any encounter with law enforcement can come back to haunt you in ways you might never anticipate and in ways you may long regret. To avoid serious negative impacts on your future, summary offenses deserve to be taken as seriously as any, and with the benefit of support from skilled legal counsel.

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