OFFENSE GRADING & PENALTIES
OFFENSE GRADING & PENALTIES
In Pennsylvania, all crimes are grading as a summary (S), misdemeanor (M), or a felony (F) offense.
This article focuses of crimes within Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code, Vehicle Code, and Controlled Substance Act. A review of the penalties under Title 34 of Pennsylvania’s Game and Wildlife Code is available here (see article).
Offenses graded as summary violations are minor infractions and are subject to special rules that distinguish them from misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses. For example, convictions of summary violations are eligible for expungement and may be expunged five (5) years passed the date of conviction, and earlier for certain violations. Moreover, a summary conviction “shall not be used in consideration of an application for a license, certificate, registration or permit …” and are not to be considered by employers. 18 Pa.C.S. § 9124(b); see also 18 Pa.C.S. § 9125.
Summary offenses are initiated via citation. An officer may issue the citation in person by hand-delivery or deliver it by mail. In practice, most summary convictions are disposed of with a fine and court costs.
Non-Traffic Summary Offenses within Title 18 of Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code
Summary offenses listed within Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code have a maximum penalty of 90 days imprisonment and/or a fine of $300 (unless specifically set higher), and court costs. Examples of these offenses are: disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, harassment, retail theft (first offense), underage drinking.
Traffic Summary Offenses within Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code
Most violations of Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (moving violations) do not include a term of imprisonment and are punishable by a $25 fine and court costs. However, some summary traffic violations have higher specified penalties and mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment.
In Pennsylvania, misdemeanor offenses can be ungraded or categorized as a misdemeanor of the third, second, or first degree.
Ungraded Misdemeanors (M)
Pennsylvania’s legislator leaves certain misdemeanor offenses ungraded so that they can assign a specific penalty to the offense. For example, a first offense DUI at the Highest Rate of Alcohol is an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Similarly, Possession of a Small Amount of Marihuana is an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days imprisonment and a $500 fine.
Misdemeanors of the Third Degree (M3)
A misdemeanor of the third degree is punishable by a maximum of 1-year imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.
Misdemeanors of the Second Degree (M2)
A misdemeanor of the second degree is punishable by a maximum of 2 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
Misdemeanors of the First Degree (M1)
A misdemeanor of the first degree is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
In Pennsylvania, felony offenses can also be ungraded or categorized as a felony of the third, second, or first degree.
Ungraded Felonies (F)
Pennsylvania’s legislator leaves certain felony offenses ungraded so that they can assign a specific penalty to the offense. For example, under the Controlled Substance Act, PWID is an ungraded felony and the maximum penalty depends on controlled substance charged and it varies from 1 year / $5,000 to 15 years / $250,000.
Felony of the Third Degree (F3)
A felony of the third degree is punishable by a maximum of 7 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
Felony of the Second Degree (F2)
A felony of the second degree is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Felony of the First Degree (F1)
A felony of the first degree is punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Murder (Homicide) of the First (H1)
Mandatory death or life imprisonment.
Murder (Homicide) of the Second Degree (H2)
Mandatory life imprisonment.
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