A summary offense is any minor crime, initially heard and decided by a district justice. Many violations of the Motor Vehicle Code such as speeding, illegal parking, and going through a red light are summary offenses. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a misdemeanor, which is a more serious crime.
Non-traffic summary offenses include disorderly conduct, underage drinking, harassment, criminal mischief, and first offense shoplifting.
How are summary offenses enforced?
Most summary crimes are enforced by a citation issued by a police officer to the person who is charged with committing the offense. Normally it is handed to the person charged by a police officer; however, if no officer was present or decides not to issue the citation at the scene, a citation / summary may be sent by mail.
In certain circumstances, a police officer may arrest someone, take him/her into custody and then before a magisterial district judge. In that case, a hearing can be requested, which may be held immediately or at a later time. A citation will still be prepared to be given to that person.
What is a citation?
It is a brief statement of the facts of the incident, how the law was violated, and a specific statment of the section of the law that was violated. It also contains instructions on what must be done to respond.
What if I do not respond to a citation?
If you do not answer a citation within 10 days, you can be arrested. When the constable appears with the arrest warrant, you can avoid arrest by paying the amount of the fine plus $7 in costs or plead guilty and pay the fine and costs.