Crimes and punishments are categorized into classifications called felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more severe in crimes and include three degrees of classification. Misdemeanors are less severe crimes and have three degrees of classification. Pennsylvania also has unclassified and ungraded felonies and misdemeanors, like first offense driving under the influence charges. At times crimes and classifications can vary from strict adherence to each class to loose adherence to each class.
Felonies are the most severe of crimes and include the longest amount of prison sentences. Class 1 Felonies carry penalties up to twenty years in prison. Class 1 Felonies include drug distribution, drug trafficking, and aggravated assault using a deadly weapon. Class 2 Felonies include sexual assault, burglary, and arson. Punishment for this class includes up to ten years in prison. The final felony category is the Class 3 Felony that can have sentences up to seven years in prison. These offenses include firearm offenses, major theft, and drug offenses.
Unlike other states where misdemeanors are classified as being punishable by no more than one year in a county jail, Pennsylvania misdemeanors can be punishable for several years in prison rather than jail. In other states misdemeanor sentence are normally served in county jails. Misdemeanors in this state are treated more like smaller felonies than minor crimes. Class 1 Misdemeanors can have sentences up to five years in prison for the offenses of simple assault, driving under the influence on several occasions, and terroristic threats. Class 2 Misdemeanors can include retail theft, fraud, shoplifting, and bad checks. The maximum punishment for Class 2 Misdemeanors is that of up to two years in a state prison. Class 3 Misdemeanors can have a maximum charge up to a year of incarceration that can be served in either a state prison or a county jail, depending on the case. Offenses for this class include marijuana possession and petty theft.
The state of Pennsylvania also has a classification called the Summary Offense, unlike other states. Summary Offenses can have up to ninety days imprisonment in a county jail for the offenses of many traffic offenses and disorderly conduct. Other states may call Summary Offenses minor misdemeanors or infractions. Because the Pennsylvania classification system is so difficult and varies depending on the crime, it is advised for an individual facing charges to consult a local criminal defense attorney. He or she will be able to determine which classification is at hand and can help prepare a proper defense.
Criminal records exist even if no charges were filed upon an arrest. Local law agencies will have access to these records along with the county police, local police, state police, federal government, and anyone desiring to search a local database for criminal records. Expungement can seal those files from public view and make it so that the arrest was never made. Expungement eligibility depends on the case, so it is advised to consult a criminal defense attorney, as some cases may be eligible for expungement when others are not. See also: