Recently one of our readers asked why a person without a drivers’ license, valid insurance, and a valid registration wouldn’t be arrested on the spot by police.
In Pennsylvania, all of these violations (not having a license, insurance, etc) are summary violations that are covered by Pennsylvania’s Traffic Code (Title 75). There are, however, traffic violations which are much more serious like DUI (Title 75, Section 3802). DUI is a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania and much more serious than a summary offense. Read my article on the categories of crimes in Pennsylvania for more information.
Unlike other criminal offenses, summary offenses don’t always require an arrest. In Pennsylvania, police may handle a summary offense by issuing a citation to the person or arresting the person in certain situation. Arrests are only for cases involving “violence, or the imminent threat of violence, or those involving a danger that the defendant will flee.” Driving without a license or not having the proper documentation wouldn’t fall into this category so police won’t arrest someone in this situation.
Despite not arresting someone, police may seize the car; this is known as “Live Stop.” If police do however seize a car, they aren’t permitted to simply abandon the person on the street! The officer must ensure the safety of the person by giving him or her a ride to their house, another location within a reasonable distance or the nearest police station so they can make arrangements.
If you have more questions about criminal law, I invite you to visit our free resources section.