SORNA now dead in Pennsylvania – at least for now

Filed under: Criminal Law, Sex Crimes by Contributor @ January 23, 2018

The United States Supreme Court has denied the appeal of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s  ruling that Pennsylvania’s sex offender registration law was unconstitutional .

Example sex offender registrant under Pennsylvania Law.

This past summer, Jose Muniz, convicted in 2007 of indecent assault against a minor and a required registrant under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), challenged the lifetime registration requirement imposed upon all convicted sex offenders.  Under Megan’s Law, the law at the time of Muniz’s conviction, offenders were required to register for 10 years rather than the lifetime requirement imposed under SORNA, the Megan’s Law replacement implemented in 2012.  Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court held that the lifetime registration requirement was unconstitutional under both state and federal law. In their decision, the court found that SORNA requirements are punitive (punishment) and cannot be applied to a defendant retroactively.

Following the state court’s ruling Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the decision. The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear the case and, consequently, the state court’s ruling will stand. In response, Pennsylvania State Representative Ronald Marsico proposed a new bill that would comply with the court’s ruling but also work to implement the now invalid requirements of SORNA. Under Marsico’s bill, the state will revert back to an earlier version of sex offender registration law that had successfully survived constitutional challenges by offenders , like Muniz, whose crime(s) were committed prior to the 2012 implementation of SORNA. If approved, convicted offenders whose crimes were committed after 2012 must continue to comply with lifetime registration requirements. The Pennsylvania House of Representative approved Marisco’s bill in December 2017 and a vote in the Pennsylvania Senate is pending.

As a result of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, those convicted of sex offenses may be impacted by the change in registration requirements and it may be necessary to consult with an attorney to determine how this ruling and upcoming bill effects you and whether it will survive constitutional challenges.

To view the Muniz case visit: https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/supreme-court/2017/47-map-2016-0.html .

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