What are summary and traffic offenses?

Writen by: on April 5, 2012


In Pennsylvania, a summary offense is an offense dealt with in District Court. Some of the most common types of summary offenses include disorderly conduct, harassment, criminal mischief, first offense shoplifting and underage drinking. Many violations of the Motor Vehicle Code are also characterized as summary offenses. Some include speeding, running a red light and illegal parking.


Enforcement of Summary Offenses

Summary offenses are generally enforced by a citation issued by a police officer. It can either be given to the defendant at the time of the offense, or it can be mailed to the defendant if no officer was present. For certain cases, such as disorderly conduct, the police officer may arrest the individual.


The Hearing


You always have the right to a private attorney at the District Court hearing. However, if the offense(s) involved will only result in a fine, you may not qualify for the Public Defender if you are unable to afford private counsel.


At the hearing, the police officer will be present and available to testify against you as well as offer pertinent evidence. You have the right to call your own witnesses on your behalf, and may take the stand yourself. Your attorney will determine if this is in your best interest.


After having the opportunity to make closing arguments, the District Judge will make a decision. If found guilty, the security paid, if any, will go towards the fines imposed. If found not guilty, the security paid will be returned to you.


Can I appeal?

If you want to appeal your summary conviction, you must do so within 30 days. The case will be tried in the Court of Common Pleas in the county of your arrest.

Written by

Managing Partner and founder of Latoison Law, Enrique Latoison, Esq. represents a diverse portfolio of clientele, including individuals, families, businesses and working professionals, in all of their legal needs. You can find him on Google+ and facebook or write to him at [email protected]. Mr. Latoison earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University, where he received awards in class excellence and accolades in distinguished class performance and outstanding trial advocacy.