It’s Only A Summary. Who Cares?
Well….All Too Often Your Present and Future Employer Does
A summary offense, even “Non-Traffic” summaries like Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, and Harassment can be very different from criminal offenses which manifest themselves in the form of a Misdemeanor or a Felony. To be honest, jail is extremely unlikely for a non-traffic summary. The worst case scenario is generally a $300 fine. But, where those tangible jail and fine related outcomes may not cause you to break a sweat, the impact the offense may have on your current and future employment situation could cause you significant pain and suffering, both personally and financially.
A handful of times a year I get a frantic phone call from an individual who has been told by their current or soon to be employer that the Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, or Harassment summary they pled guilty to four weeks earlier might cost them their job or an opportunity at the promotion they have been working so hard to attain. Each time they say to me that they thought it wasn’t a big deal. Generally some form of “the officer told me it’s the same as a traffic ticket”.
I always respond with the same answer. Yes, technically it is the same as a traffic offense from a grading standpoint in that it is a summary just like a speeding ticket. But, it’s a different kind of summary in that it’s called a “Non-Traffic”. Taking that logic further, by pleading guilty to this seemingly minor offense, you have admitted to the world to being disorderly in public, harassing someone, or not being able to control how much alcohol you imbibe.
For an employer, that can be a big problem. An employer may decide keeping or promoting someone who has done something like that is a bad idea, especially in a world where plenty of your competition for that same position do not have such a glaring negative statement about themselves out there for all to see.
It’s human nature for an employer to think, what if the next time it’s worse? They may say, what if I as their employer don’t act, and someday down the road I open the paper to find an article about how you, employee underneath them at their business or organization, is now charged with Homicide by Motor Vehicle, Aggravated Assault, or worse. That’s negative publicity and embarrassment an employer often can’t risk. That can put them in a tough position when deciding whether this seemingly minor offense is symptomatic of something more serious and more concerning.
As a result, the moral of the story is to take that type of charge seriously and do everything in your power to keep your record as clean as possible. Although the fine may not cause you to break a sweat, the present and future impact on your employment could negatively impact you long after the $300 fine is a thing of the past.