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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 99417
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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Hello. I just received a "Summons for Summary Case Non-Traffic"

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Hello. I just received a "Summons for Summary Case Non-Traffic" accusing me of harassment. Stating that I punhed an individual in the lip causing it to bleed. First of all I did not do any such thing, in fact on the date and time I was to have committed this crime I was at my office all day.

I spoke with a friend of mine who in a detective in PA and he told me that he spoke with the arresting officer and the officer told him that he got a licence plate number from tha vehicle that left in a hurry. This plate number was apparently mine. However, the vehicle was a Chrysler. I drive a 2012 Ford F150 pickup truck. I haven't owned a Chrysler product in at least 15 yrs. My friend proceeded to ask the arresting officer if he followed up and contacted me. He said that he didn't and the since the desription the officer was given was close enough to issue this summons.

PLease tell me how I should proceed. I feel this is unfair and that this officer was in the wrong. Help please!!!
Hello, my name is Ely. Welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice; and (2) my function is to give you honest information and not necessarily to tell you what you wish to hear. Note: there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am very sorry for your situation. First of all, please let us discuss what this is.

Harassment in Pennsylvania is defined as:
A person commits the crime of
harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another,
the person:
(1) strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the
other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to
do the same;
(2) follows the other person in or about a public place
or places;
(3) engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits
acts which serve no legitimate purpose;
(4) communicates to or about such other person any lewd,
lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings
or caricatures;
(5) communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner;
(6) communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient
hours; or
(7) communicates repeatedly in a manner other than
specified in paragraphs (4), (5) and (6).
18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2709.

This is a summary offense in this case, punishable by a fine. While not a criminal conviction per se, they do appear in a criminal background record, meaning that one may wish NOT to be convicted of it.

The summons is for a court date - it is one of several. The first setting is the arraignment where a plea is entered (NOT GUILTY). These hearings will reset several times to allow your attorney and the prosecutor (DA) to discuss a plea deal. Normally, the case is reset about 3-4 times before you have to make a choice:

1) plead guilty and simply have the Court sentence you (not recommended);
2) take the matter to trial and risk either being convicted, or, acquitted of charges (risky); or
3) make a plea deal with the DA.

If you do not have an attorney, one should be retained. May I recommend the PA Bar referral program - here. The attorneys are vetted and qualified. You should be able to find an attorney you are confident with and whom you can trust, and who is available ASAP.

I know you likely do not want to retain counsel. But, it may be wise to do so here, because the DA is not going to give you a "break" simply if you represent yourself. Also, the procedural aspects of the Court may be complex.

The Court is likely to reset in order for you to find counsel even before it asks one to enter an original plea (NOT GUILTY).

There is the possibility of a "deferment" program where if you take a class and stay out of trouble for a probationary period, the matter is dropped. While not a "right," this is often offered to non-violent first offenders. Do have your attorney check into this matter.

Alternatively, one can always take this to trial - the DA has to prove their case 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' which is not easy to do. However, this may be trying emotionally and is a risk. But considering the facts, this may be a good decision since the facts are in your favor here, arguably. DO discuss this option with counsel as well.

If the matter is dropped or you are acquitted, you may have a cause of action as relief for the false charge in malicious prosecution.

The basis of action of malicious prosecution is for the recovery of damages which have proximately resulted to the person, property or reputation from a previous unsuccessful civil or criminal proceeding which was prosecuted without probable cause and with malice. Johnson v. Land Title Bank and Trust Company et al., 329 Pa. 241, 198 A. 23.

I hope this helps and clarifies. Good luck.

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