Appealing PA Megan's Law Retroactivity Provisions

PA Megan's Law Retroactivity

As Attorney Zak Goldstein previously wrote, Pennsylvania has seen significant changes in the laws governing sex offender registration. Specifically, recent cases have provided some hope for a limited number of Megan's Law and SORNA registrants to downgrade from Tier III lifetime offenders to lower tiers depending on the circumstances of their cases and pleas. Registrants who meet very specific conditions may have the possibility of obtaining a reduced Tier if they can show that they either committed multiple Tier I or Tier II offenses as part of the same case or, in limited circumstances, that the Commonwealth has violated a plea bargain by retroactively requiring the offender to register at a higher tier. 

Potential Ways to Lower Megan's Law Tier in PA

Aside from the issues written about in that previous post, there are other ways for a person, required to register under SORNA, to downgrade their registration status or even remove it completely, and that is to enforce the plea that was bargained for at the time of sentencing. It isn't unusual for us to see cases where a defendant has specifically bargained for Tier I registration as part of an agreement to plead guilty. Pennsylvania courts have upheld that such agreements are governed by contract law and enforceable under contract law. This means that, while the offense pleaded guilty to may require higher registration, even lifetime registration the agreement, made at the time of the plea, will often be the deciding factor on how long a someone will have to register. But we've often found when someone is released from prison or from supervision they've been told their registration status has been changed to lifetime registration or from Tier I to Tier III. It may be possible to challenge such a change to one's SORNA registration requirements. However, it can be expensive and difficult, and success is never guaranteed.

information on the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA)

As of 2012, Pennsylvania substantially implemented Title I of the Adam Walsh Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).  SORNA requires that offenders register for a duration of time based on the tier of the offense of conviction. Specifically, SORNA requires Tier I offenders register for 15 years, Tier II offenders register for 25 years, and Tier III offenders register for life. 

SORNA requires that offenders make in-person appearances at the registering agency based on the tier of the offense of conviction. Specifically, this Act requires that Tier I offenders appear once a year, that SORNA Tier II offenders appear every six months, and Tier III offenders appear every three months. SORNA requires that each jurisdiction maintain a public sex offender registry website and publish certain registration information on that website. 

PENNSYLVANIA MEGAN'S LAW REGISTRATION TIERS

Pennsylvania has three categories of registrants for purposes of duration of registration requirements and frequency of reporting to law enforcement for verification: 

Tier I offenders, who are required to appear annually to verify registration information and register for a period of 15 years. 

Tier II offenders, who are required to appear every 180 days to verify registration information and register for a period of 25 years. 

Tier III offenders, who are required to appear every 90 days to verify registration information and register for life. 

SORNA Tier I requires offenders to register for a minimum of 15 years and annually verify registration information. The following offenses listed in Pennsylvania Statutes would require, at a minimum, Tier I registration requirements under SORNA:

18 Pa. C.S. § 2902 – Unlawful restraint (non-parental, victim under 18) 

18 Pa. C.S. § 2903 – False imprisonment (non-parental, victim under 18)

18 Pa. C.S. § 2904 – Interference with custody of children (non-parental, victim under 18)

18 Pa. C.S. § 2910 – Luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure

18 Pa. C.S. § 3124.2 – Institutional sexual assault (adult victim)

18 Pa. C.S. § 3126 – Indecent assault where the offense is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher (if punishment less than one year)

18 Pa. C.S. § 6312[d] – Sexual abuse of children (possession of child pornography)

18 Pa. C.S. § 7507.1 – Invasion of privacy

SORNA Tier II requires offenders register for a minimum of 25 years and semiannually verify registration information. The following offenses listed in Pennsylvania Statutes would require, at a minimum, Tier II registration: 

18 Pa. C.S. § 3124.2 – Institutional sexual assault (victim age 16-17)

18 Pa. C.S. § 3126 – Indecent assault where the offense is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher (if recidivist or punishment greater than one year)

18 Pa. C.S. § 5902[b] – Prostitution and related offenses, where the actor promotes the prostitution of a minor

18 Pa. C.S. § 5903[a] [3], [4], [5], or [6] – Obscene and other sexual materials and performances, where the victim is a minor

18 Pa. C.S. § 6312[b], [c] – Sexual abuse of children (production/distribution of child pornography)

18 Pa. C.S. § 6318 – Unlawful contact with minor

18 Pa. C.S. § 6320 – Sexual exploitation of children SORNA 

Tier III Offenses requires lifetime registration and quarterly verifications. The following offenses listed in Pennsylvania Statutes would require, at a minimum, Tier III registration requirements under SORNA: 

18 Pa. C.S. § 2901 – Kidnapping, where the victim is a minor (non-parental)

18 Pa. C.S. § 3121 – Rape • 18 Pa. C.S. § 3122.1 – Statutory sexual assault

18 Pa. C.S. § 3123 – Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse

18 Pa. C.S. § 3124.1 – Sexual assault • 18 Pa. C.S. § 3124.2 – Institutional sexual assault (victim under 16)

18 Pa. C.S. § 3125 – Aggravated indecent assault

18 Pa. C.S. § 3126 – Indecent assault where the offense is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher (if victim under 13 and punishment greater than one year)

18 Pa. C.S. § 4302 – Incest (victim under 13, or victim 13-18 years old, and offender more than 4 years older)

HOW OUR PENNSYLVANIA MEGAN'S LAW LAWYERS CAN HELP

Demetra Mehta, Esq. - PA Megan's Law Attorney

Demetra Mehta, Esq. - PA Megan's Law Attorney

If you think you have been required to register for the wrong tier, please contact us to discuss your case. After a brief consultation, we may be able to advise you how to best move forward. If we think we can be of assistance we will investigate your case and offer an opinion on if a challenge to your registration requirements will be successful. We offer a free phone consultation in these matters, and if further investigation is warranted, we typically charge a reasonable initial fee to obtain court records and transcripts, investigate the case, and determine the likelihood of success. 

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