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RobertJDFL, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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I live in Pennsylvania and I just received a Non-Traffic Citation/Summons

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I live in Pennsylvania and I just received a Non-Traffic Citation/Summons for Disorderly Conduct Section 5503 Sub Sec. a4. for "Defendant created a hazardous or offensive condition that served no legitimate purpose." The cost is listed as "115.00" and the J.C.P./A.T.J. is listed as "23.50" (and the officer crossed out "10.00"). In the remarks section the following is written: "Request max Fine". I am totally freaking out here. I am in the process of interviewing for a new job within my company. How do I know if this is a summary offense or a misdemeanor? Is this serious? What should I do? Should I get a lawyer? What is this going to cost me in dollars now? And how bad is this going to look on my record going forward? I did not tell you anything about what I was doing yet because it is kind of embarrassing. But I think the police officer was mad because he could not give me a DUI (I was sitting in my car but not driving). Also, I did not have any clothes on, but I don't think anyone saw me. When the police drove up to my car I had my shirt off and laying over my lap. I am totally embarrased here and I'm freaking out.

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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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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Alex,
Don't worry. I will compensate you for your time. And I am definitely not a lawyer. But I've found things on the internet that seem to say that if I have the grading of "Defendant created a hazardous or offensive condition that served no legitimate purpose" then it could be a misdemeanor, not a summary offense, and could be on my record (unable to be expunged) until I am 70 years old. I just want to make sure that you are sure about this. If I wanted a lawyer, how would I get one? About how much would it cost me? And what could they accomplish (aside from providing me with more peace of mind)?

I'm 34 years old and I haven't even gotten a speeding or parking ticket since I was 20 years old. So I am very nervous right now. Are you sure nothing will be in my record about being "almost nude" and "almost DUI"? What should I list on my employment applications?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Also I just noticed that in block 13. "On-View Arrest" is checked and not "Citation/Summons". Is this bad? What does this mean? Does it mean that I was arrested and/or going to jail and/or getting charged with a misdemeanor?

Sorry to be freaking out so much.

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.



It doesn't mean you were charged with a misdemeanor, or that you are going to jail. What it means is that you techincally "arrested" (even without fingerprinting/photographing), and the police officer issued you a citation. But, all it is really is an arrest sheet that is maintained by the police department that cited you. It is not entered into a statewide or national database, so no record of it would appear in a background check, so it is unlikely that an employer would ever find it. However, if a PI were to look at the citation and call the police department that cited you and ask "Was XXXXX XXXXX ever 'arrested' for the summary offense of disorderly conduct?", the answer would be yes.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
No problem.
I stepped away when I didn't hear back from you.
This all sounds like pretty good news. I just have a few more small questions.
How do I find out if this is a summary offense?
Do I need to do anything special now to get this expunged in the future?
Is it even possible to get this expunged? Or should I even try to?
It sounds like a PI will find everything. Is this true even if it is expunged?
Are their any other details that this officer could have written down with regard to what I was doing in the car? Like something that he wrote down that becomes a record but is not part of the summons. Would these details be uncovered by an employment screen or by a PI?
Also, is it true that anyone on this forum here can read our transcript? Is there an option for me to not share our conversation with the public?
Thank you!
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Can you recommend a lawyer or a resource to find a lawyer that may offer a free or low cost consultation? I found a place called PrePaid Legal Services on-line. Are they worth call up?
Should I hit the "Accept Answer" button for each of your answers? Does each answer cost $60? Or should I just hit the button once and leave you a "tip" since you have responded to me several times?

I appreciate the accept and generous bonus. No need to accept each answer as unless you have a subscription through JA it will charge you each time.


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.






Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I just got an e-mail telling me to accept your answer. I thought I already did that. I thought that you got paid and also received the tip. Let me know if there is something else I need to do.

Also, here is an update. I called the court today to ask if this was a summary or misdemeanor. The person that answered the phone at the courthouse said that I would have to call back on Wednesday or Thursday. But she did say that Crimes Code Title 18 (which is on my citation) is normally a summary. She also said that it was a good sign that I was not fingerprinted.

I am going to take your advice and call the PA Bar referral number after I find out if this is a summary or misdemeanor. But now I am freaking out about something else based on things I've read on the Internet. Even though my citation only stated disorderly conduct, could I be charged with something else at a later date?

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.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi. I'm not sure if you will get this since it has been some time. I talked to a lawyer, actually several lawyers. This is going to cost me $1000 for lawyer, and another $1000 in travel to get back to the court. The lawyer was able to get in contact with the officer and his response was that there was no way he was going to drop the charges, that he came upon me naked, red-faced, sweating, and huffing and puffing. But he also said that he didn't see me actually doing any (you know what). The lawyer says that it could be a toss up with the judge and does not know if he would want to go out on a limb for me since it is such an odd situation. $2000 is a lot of money but if this is going to affect my future employment and promotions then it might be worth it. Then again, I can get the conviction expunged in five years. And you stated above that summary offenses cannot be used to determine employment. I wonder if that is in other states too or if the PA state law applies since this happened in PA. What if I apply for a job in NJ? You stated that this is extremely minor. However, there are tons of horror stories in the Internet. And you cannot even say that it can't get worse by going to court because there are people that go through court documents and publish information to the Internet that said by people in even minor cases. I am really leaning toward having the lawyer contact the judge to vacate my not guilty verdict and then just pay the fine. Then I'll wait five years and get it expunged. I guess there will still be an arrest record, but that seems highly unlikely to ever go away in any situation. What do you think? Everyone keeps telling me that it is my decision, but it is so difficult to actually decide. Do you think I can be successful in life after this?

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.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
OK. I think I already made that decision anyway. I'm just second-guessing myself because I keep finding horror stories on the Internet.

My lawyer also received a summary disorderly conduct when he was in college and he said that he has not had any problems. I guess I keep going back to the horror stories.

I believe it is impossible to go to jail since I was sent a summons for a fine ($300).

A couple minor points that maybe I am misunderstanding:
I thought that an arrest record could not be expunged if I am convicted (or pay the fine).
It seems like there are companies out there that do in fact search court records. Lexis Nexis is the one that my employer uses.
Of course each court seems to make there own rules with regard to how much information they report.

OK. I made my decision. I think I just need to move on and stop researching this. The likelihood of one of the horror stories happening to me is probably very small, especially since I have an impeccable record otherwise.

Thanks again for all of your help with this.

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.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Oh OK. I understand now. It looks like I can expunge an arrest record in 18 months without a conviction or if I have a conviction then I wait five years and then I can have both the conviction and arrest expunged. This is very good news. I thought that the arrest would be with me forever.
Thanks so much.

You're welcome, take care.

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