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LegalKnowledge, Attorney
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A police officer came to my home and said I was being given

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A police officer came to my home and said I was being given a citation for "theft of services" because I put thrash in another condo associations dumpster. Do I need a lawyer to help me here? (I live in Lancaster PA) or should I just wait and pay the fine? I don't want to end up some sort of criminal for something I did not realize was an offense.
Hi! I will be the professional that will be helping you today. I look forward to providing you with information to help solve your problem.

Good morning. I certainly understand the situation and your concern. Depending on the "value" of the theft of services, this could likely be charged as a summary offense. I have provided a link below to the statute in its entirety, so you can see what the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, for a conviction against you. This is criminal in nature, so if you wanted to avoid this on your record, you would want to either 1) inquire about a diversion program set up by the court, which you can enter into, to get the case dismissed upon completion or 2) seeing if based upon the facts, the State would consider amending the charge to a lesser offense that is civil and allow you to pay the fine and court costs. Of course, you can always retain legal counsel and go to trial, making the State prove the charge against you. While I fully understand and believe you did not know that throwing the trash in the dumpster of the other condo was a criminal offense, it is not a legal defense to the charge. However, the State may see just how silly this is and decide to not proceed or amend the charge, like I mentioned above. I think it is always in your best interest to retain legal counsel and have them look over the facts of the case, to see what legal defenses you have or in the alternative, work out a plea deal with the minimal consequences.

Please let me know if you have any follow up questions or need any clarification on something which I stated above. Also, remember to rate my service before exiting the site, so I can receive credit for my help. I hope you found it to be Excellent! Only rate my answer when you are 100% satisfied. If you feel the need to click either of the two lower ratings to the left, please stop and reply to me. I want to make sure your experience with the site was as pleasurable as possible and that you are satisfied with the help I provided.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The officer said I would only get a citation and have to pay a fine, are you saying I could end up with a charge that can send to me to jail? I am really freaking out here!!!

Please clarify-basically I want to know am I in a lot of trouble like life changing type of trouble here? Like lose my job and family and stuff?

I do not think this is a life changing event or anything that will result in a loss of your job or family. However, I do want you to be aware of exactly what a summary offense is, so you can make a decision on how to proceed. A Summary Offenses are the lowest graded crime in Pennsylvania. Summary offenses are higher than traffic tickets, but lower than misdemeanors or felonies. Even though summary offenses are the lowest of the graded offenses in Pennsylvania, you can still receive maximum fines and even jail time if convicted of a summary offense. If convicted of a summary offense and the conviction is not expunged or appealed, the conviction will remain on your record. As such, you want to retain counsel, to handle this from start to finish, to minimize and exposure. The facts surrounding the charge are certainly silly but there is possible a basis to support it, which is why the attorney needs to look at all the evidence the State has, to determine how strong of a case it is.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So do think the officer tried to fool me by saying it was a "citation" no worse than a speeding ticket? Or is it possible he doesn't really know either?

I do not think he tried to fool you and I do think the end result will be a fine. A speeding ticket is civil in nature and this can be viewed as criminal, so there is a difference.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

What would the best way be for me to find a local attorney who can help me w/this ? Also do you think the legal fees would be higher or lower than the fine?

I think the legal fees would be higher then the fine but if the attorney can get the case dismissed, it would be worth it. You would want to retain a criminal defense attorney. Here is a link from the PA Bar Association that has phone numbers for the counties and you can call them for a referral. You can also go online to or, along with an internet search.