Misdemeanors in Pennsylvania
Crimes and punishments are divided into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more serious crimes with three levels of classification. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes with three levels of severity. Pennsylvania also has unclassified and ungraded felonies and misdemeanors, such as first-time DUI charges. Crimes and classifications can vary from strictly adhering to each class to loosely adhering to each class at times.
Classifications in Pennsylvania
Felonies are the most serious crimes and carry the longest prison sentences. Class 1 felonies carry prison sentences of up to twenty years. Drug distribution, drug trafficking, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon are all Class 1 felonies. Sexual assault, burglary, and arson are examples of Class 2 felonies. The penalty for this offense is up to ten years in prison. The final felony category is Class 3 Felony, which can result in prison sentences of up to seven years. These offenses include possession of a firearm, major theft, and drug offenses.
Unlike in other states, where misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year in a county jail, misdemeanors in Pennsylvania can be punished by several years in prison rather than jail. Misdemeanor sentences are typically served in county jails in other states. In this state, misdemeanors are treated more like minor felonies than minor crimes. Simple assault, driving under the influence on multiple occasions, and terroristic threats are all Class 1 Misdemeanors that can result in prison sentences of up to five years. Retail theft, fraud, shoplifting, and bad checks are examples of Class 2 misdemeanors. Class 2 misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to two years in state prison. Class 3 misdemeanors can result in up to a year in prison, which can be served in either a state prison or a county jail, depending on the circumstances. Marijuana possession and petty theft are examples of offenses in this category.
Unlike other states, Pennsylvania has a classification called the Summary Offense. Summary offenses can result in up to ninety days in county jail for a variety of traffic offenses and disorderly conduct. Summary offenses may be referred to as minor misdemeanors or infractions in other states. Because the Pennsylvania classification system is so complicated and varies depending on the crime, it is recommended that anyone facing charges consult with a local criminal defense attorney. He or she will be able to determine which classification is involved and will be able to assist in the preparation of an appropriate defense.
Expungement in Pennsylvania
Even if no charges were filed following an arrest, a criminal record exists. Local law enforcement agencies, county police, local police, state police, the federal government, and anyone wishing to search a local database for criminal records will have access to these records. Expungement can remove those files from public view and effectively make the arrest disappear. Expungement eligibility is case-specific, so it is best to consult with a criminal defense attorney because some cases may be eligible for expungement while others are not.