In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that sex offenders who commit certain crimes must commit a subsequent offense following their conviction for the first offense before they can be made to register as sex offenders for life.
In A.S. v. Pennsylvania State Police, the Court discussed the proper construction of the provision of the Megan’s Law II statute requiring those convicted of “two or more offenses” to register as a sex offender for life. The defendant in this case had plead guilty to single counts of sexual abuse of children and unlawful contact with a minor following an incident in which he, while 21 years old, persuaded a 16-year-old girl to send him sexually explicit photographs. He was sentenced to 5 to 23 months incarceration followed by 5 years of probation, and was required to register as a sex offender with the State Police. The trial court judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney all believed that the defendant was required to register for 10 years because the offenses stemmed from the same incident. However, once the ten years had passed and the defendant moved to have his name removed from the sex offender registry, the State Police refused because he had been convicted of multiple offenses and they believed that this required him to register for life pursuant to the relevant statute.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was eventually called on to interpret this ambiguity in the law, and held that the proper construction of “two or more offenses” did not mean multiple offenses stemming from one incident, but rather a second conviction for a sex offense after the defendant had already been convicted a first time. Stated otherwise, in order to require an offender to register as a sex offender for life, there must be an act, a conviction, and then a subsequent act. The Court explained that the Legislature intended the requirement of lifetime registration only for recidivists, and thus those who only commit an offense, serve their penalty, and abstain from any further offenses should not be required to register for life.
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