PA Supreme Court Alters Life Sex Offender Registration Requirements
Lifetime registration for sex offenders is often controversial, particularly when individuals who committed minor sex crimes suffer a harsh penalty for the rest of their lives. People who are unlikely to harm others or recommit a sex crime are forced to continuously register with their state police their entire lives and abide by living and work restrictions. Considering that sex offender registration information is often public, lifetime registration can lead to severe discrimination, harassment, and ostracism.
Pennsylvania was forced to confront this problem when it became clear that the state police were requiring individuals with multiple convictions from one situation to register for life instead of 15 years. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined individuals are not required to register for life after a minor sex offense unless they commit a second sex crime. If you are currently required to register for life, contact an experienced Pittsburgh criminal attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC.
Limiting Megan’s Law
Statute 42 Pa C.S. Section 9799.10 et seq. is informally known as Megan’s Law and requires the Pennsylvania State Police to maintain a public database of sex offenders. The purpose of this law is to keep the public informed about sex offenders in their community and to ultimately protect children from harm.
The law also creates tiers of sexual offenses. Tier 1 offenders must register for 15 years. Tier 2 offenders must register for 25 years. Tier 3 offenders are required to register for life. The issue recently addressed by the state supreme court arose because Tier 3 is not only a list of specific sexual offenses but also includes two or more convictions of Tier 1 or Tier 2 offenses. The law specifically states an individual commits a Tier 3 sexual offense if he or she commits “[t]wo or more convictions of offenses listed as Tier I or Tier II sexual offenses.”
The question before the court was whether multiple convictions arising from the same situation counted as two or more sexual offenses. The court ruled it did not. An offender must be convicted of Tier 1 or Tier 2 offenses separate times due to different circumstances in order to be required to register for life as a Tier 3 sex offender.
The court’s point is that the law allows for a person to reform before requiring an individual to register for life. An individual is given a second chance before such a harsh punishment.
What Does This Mean For You?
This court rule will affect a significant number of offenders who may be under the impression they have to register for life because of multiple convictions arising from one situation. If you were convicted of more than one offense arising from the same circumstances, you will only have to register for 15 or 25 years depending on the tier of the crimes.
If you have already passed the 15 or 25-year mark, you should speak to an attorney right away. You may be able to stop reporting. However, this depends on whether the decision will be applied retroactively.
For more information on how long you must register or avoiding sex offender registration, contact the Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146.