In Pennsylvania, a "summary case" is distinguished from a "court case" in that the only offense or offenses charged are summary offenses.  A summary offense, sometimes called a "non-traffic citation" is the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania.  Examples include: Disorderly Conduct, Public Drunkenness and Harrassment.  A summary offense is typically punishable by a fine, but certain summary offenses, such as driving on a DUI-related suspended license, also carry a mandatory county jail sentence and a driver's license suspension.  Even minor traffic violations sometimes carry "points" which may be applied to your drivers license and can lead to a license suspension.


Summary trials are typically held before the Issuing Authority, which may be an alderman, a justice of the peace, a magistrate, a magisterial district judge, a judge in Philadelphia's Municiple Court or a judge in Pittsburgh's Magistrates Court.  Unlike a Court of Common Pleas Judge, an Issuing Authority need not be a lawyer nor must they have a law degree.  Issuing Authorities can come from all walks of life: former police officers, teachers, plumbers and, yes, lawyers.


If you are charged with a summary offense and pending a summary trial, the Issuing Authority may require a deposit of collateral in an amount not to exceed the maximum fine and court costs.  Collateral serves two purposes: 1) as bail to secure the defendant's appearance at his or her summary trial and, 2)  as security for the payment of fines and costs.  If convicted, your collateral may be forfeited and applied to your fines and costs; if acquitted, you should be issued a refund.  Non-payment of requested collateral, or failure to respond to a citation with either a plea of guilty or not guilty, may result in the issuance of a bench warrant or an arrest warrant and incarceration pending summary trial.  Failure to respond and/or non-payment of collateral may also result in a driver's license suspension.


At a summary trial, the rules of evidence apply as they would during a bench trial at the Court of Common Pleas.  The defendant can move for suppression of evidence, if warranted.  The Commonwealth may be represented by a member of the District Attorney's Office, the police officer who observed the allegedly criminal conduct, or an attorney representing the Municipality if a violation of municiple ordinance is charged.  If convicted after a summary trial, the defendant has the right to appeal the conviction to a trial de novo ("new trial") before the Court of Common Pleas.  If only summary offenses are charged, a defendant does not have a right to a jury trial.


As you can tell, even a summary trial is something to be taken very seriously.  If you are charged with a summary offense and think you would benefit from my help, call me today for a FREE CONSULTATION.


Summary Offenses

Disorderly Conduct - Public Drunkenness - Harrassment - Traffic Violations