Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law is Unconstitutional

Filed under: Sex Crimes by Contributor @ November 17, 2018

On December 20, 2012, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) became effective and repealed and replaced all prior versions of Megan’s Law.

On July 19, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided in Commonwealth v. Muniz, that the new SORNA requirements are punitive (punishment) and cannot be applied to a defendant retroactively. Essentially, as a matter of fairness, SORNA cannot be applied to those who committed sex offenses before SORNA became law.  Any person whose offense occurred before the enactment of SORNA in December 2012 would not be required to register as a sexual offender and those placed on the registry for offenses committed before that date would be subject to removal.

For more on the this ruling click here.

In February, the PA Legislature amended the unconstitutional portions of SORNA in “Act 10.” The new legislation provides a mechanism for possible removal from the registry for a lifetime registrant after a term of 25 years and offenders in compliance with SORNA’s in-person reporting requirements for three years can appear in-person once a year and complete the rest of their reporting requirements electronically.

Since Governor Wolfe signed Act 10 into law, some Pennsylvania courts have ruled that the amended SORNA is still unconstitutional when applied to some registrants:

Commonwealth v. Torsilieri was decided in Chester County. The defendant’s offense occurred after SORNA was enacted in 2012.  Because of the amended version of SORNA, the defendant had to register for life. The judge ruled that the amended version of SORNA still violated defendant’s constitutional rights.  Therefore, the judge concluded that the defendant does not have to register for life.
Commonwealth v. Lacombe was decided in Montgomery County. Lacombe was a Norristown police officer who was convicted of a sex offense and sentenced before the amended SORNA became law. After Act 10 became law, he had to register as a sex offender for life. The judge ruled that the amended SORNA was not applicable to someone who committed a sex offense before it became law. The judge found the changes in SORNA “illusory,” and the retroactive application of SORNA was still punitive. 
With these rulings, the future of the amended SORNA is uncertain and more claims against the constitutionality of SORNA are likely to arise. If you are a PA registrant who committed a sex offense before December 20, 2012, contact us now You may have a case to challenge your registration requirements under SORNA.  

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