Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
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Disorderly conduct is a summary offense -they're not considered criminal offenses lie a felony or misdemeanor. They are only considered criminal convictions if jail time is served. While the maximum penalty for a summary offense is up to 90 days in jail, I doubt very much you will do even one hour of jail time for this -even the officer suggested a fine. The maximum fine is $300 for this, plus court costs (which can add on another $100+).
It's extremely minor, and you don't need a lawyer. Because it's not a criminal offense, you actually aren't even entitled to a public defender, so if you want a lawyer, you have to hire a private one. A summary offense does not show up in a state background check, though if an employer hired a PI to look through court records, they would likely find the citation.
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Sorry for the delay, I stepped away from my computer briefly.
The actual statute says:
"An offense under this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a summary offense."
Almost always, this crime is charged as a summary offense. Where it would be charged as a misdemeanor would be where your behaviror was extraordinary or where you committed some act like fighting or otherwise violent behavior, especially if done in a public area.
It is true that if convicted of a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, it cannot be expunged until after you are 70, but I don't believe this is being charged as a misdemeanor; especially since the officer wrote "suggest maximum fine; you also weren't arrested, which is common with misdemeanor crimes. Unless the citation mentions an almost DUI or that you were partially nude, there would not be a record of that.
The only thing you would have to tell employers if they asked on an application if you had ever received a summary citation is yes -paid fine (or whatever the outcome is). But I would imagine most employers are most concerned with misdemeanor or felony arrests and convictions, not minor incidents like this.
The cost of a private attorney really varies from firm to firm, so I don't want to speculate --suffice it to say I could easily see it costly a lot more than the maximum fine you would pay. And really, if this is a summary offense, there's not much they could do with this. Depending on the facts and evidence, they may be able to get it dismissed (but getting things dismissed is rare), but because this is already a summary offense, about all they might be able to do is negotiate for you to get a reduced fine or maybe no fine by doing community service, for example. If it makes you feel better to consult with a private lawyer befefore court, do so. There is no obligation to hire a lawyer, and many offer free or low cost consultations.
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You can have a summary offense expunged but the law in Pennsylvania requires that you wait five years after conviction (and stay out of trouble during that time) before applying for an expungement.
Most employers do not use a PI to do a background check, and as I said, it wouldn't show up in a typical state or national check. I can see having it expunged for peace of mind, just so you know it's done. To be honest, I am reading different things on different Pennsylvania lawyer websites -some saying that the record will show up in a background check from the Pennsylvania State Police, others saying it absolutely never does.
It should be noted that it may be improper for employers or licensing agencies to deny applicants a job on the basis of summary offense convictions, anyway. See 18 Pa. C.S. 9124 and 9125.
What I would encourage you to do is consult with a criminal defense attorney (even if you decide not to hire them, many of them do offer low cost or possibly even free consultations). They can tell you for certain whether this is a misdemeanor or summary offense (though my money is on summary offense), and what you are looking at, and what, if anything, they can do for you. Prepaid Legal Services is a service that I believe you have to sign up for and pay monthly, then if you have legal needs in the future, you can go to them and they pay a portion. It's sort of like having a legal service on retainer. Not sure if it's worth paying for the service if you only plan to use the lawyer one time -especially if all you may be looking for is a consultation. I would use the Lawyer Referral Service from the Pennsylvania Bar and make some calls that way.
By the way, (since I just realized I forgot to answer this part) If the officer didn't write specific details of what occurred on the citation itself, I don't see how an employer or anyone else would find those details out. IF this shows up on a background check, all they would see is the summary offense for disorderly conduct and the disposition of the case, not the details.
In answer to your last question, this is a public forum, so it is accessible to anyone on the internet, but your user ID is a generic series of numbers and letters, and you haven't stated anything that identifies you. If you prefer, just reply and let me know you are done with this conversation, however, and I will ask that customer service please LOCK this question.
I already did receive payment and the tip --not sure why you got that email now, unless it was delayed. Just ignore it.
Being charged at a later date with additional offenses is very rare. For example, a person might initially be charged with battery for attacking someone, then the person dies, and they are now charged with murder. Given that you were issued a citation and that's it, I would not expect you to receive any additional charges.
A summary offense cannot be used in employment purposes in Pennsylvania. Other states may have different laws. But as I said, it doesn't show up in a background check either, so the only way an employer in another state might find it would be if they searched court records.
An expungement would get rid of the arrest record, by the way. I really can't tell you what to do, though realistically, this is probably your best option, in my opinion.You pay a fine, and then you expunge it in a few years. I take it the lawyers you spoke with thought it was unlikely you would do jail time, as well.
And do I think you'll be employable and move on after this? Absolutely. It's a very minor offense, a summary offense is not even a misdemeanor. I went to law school with people who had felony records and are now practicing law, so I'm sure you're employable. And the more time passes, the less any employer is going to care.
After the judge grants an expungement, the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division, eliminates all non-conviction data from its physical case files and electronic database and notifies the appropriate criminal justice agencies, such as (and thse may not all apply to you) the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, District Attorney, Magisterial District Judge, the Pennsylvania State Police, the County Jail, Arresting Agency, and Sheriff. It may take up to one (1) year for the expungement process to be completed after a judge signs an Order of Expungement. So all of the records are eliminated with an expungement,
And yes, there are companies that check court records, you're right, I never said there weren't, just that many companies don't do this.
Good luck to you-I think you just need to stop overthinking it. Everything will be fine.
You're welcome, take care.
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