Challenge to PA Sex Offender Law Begins

Challenge to PA Sex Offender Law Begins
National Group Cites Costs and Unconstitutional Provisions
January 2, 2013

Reform Sex Offender Laws Inc. (RSOL) recently announced plans to challenge sections of Senate Bill 1183 (Pennsylvania’s new sex offender registration requirements) on multiple constitutional grounds (see first press release here). Today, RSOL began the process of notifying registered persons throughout Pennsylvania regarding the details of this new plan and will seek to organize affected citizens into an active group of advocates to contest the law. Because the new law requires so many individuals to frequently report in person to a state police barracks for the remainder of their lives, RSOL asserts that the new law substantially violates both state and federal Constitutional protections guaranteed to the citizens it affects. RSOL asserts that these onerous new in-person reporting provisions transform registration into a form of lifetime probation supervision, and therefore, constitute punishment.

Despite wide misconceptions, registration requirements are not part of a person’s actual sentence or punishment; rather, they are a collateral consequence of the individual’s conviction. In fact, for public registration schemes to pass constitutional scrutiny, they cannot impose punishment either by design or effect. RSOL finds it problematic that this new law retroactively adds new offenses to the list of offenses requiring registration. This provision alone has the potential to undo an undetermined number of plea agreements because of representations made to defendants which helped induce them to plea.

In support of this action, Brenda Jones, RSOL’s Executive Director, stated, “Even though enforcement of the controversial law has begun, RSOL is optimistic that many aspects of the law will ultimately be declared invalid by the courts, and, as a result, legislators in Harrisburg will be forced to revisit this issue. RSOL finds it incomprehensible that those responsible for the fiscal integrity of Pennsylvania have given such paltry consideration to the financial ramifications of SB 1183.”

In a presentation of talking points being made available to Pennsylvania registrants, Jones questioned whether legislators considered the financial impact of:the additional number of transactions that the state police will be required to perform because so many registrants will have to be processed at least four times a year as opposed to once under the previous law;the ever-increasing number of registrants because there will be virtually no attrition in the future; most will die on Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry;the additional strain on the judiciary due to the extra workload; and the cost that the additional litigation will have on other agencies such as the Public Defender because of the anticipated flood of motions to withdraw plea agreements.“Citizens should be alarmed because Pennsylvania has significantly reduced funding for its schools and other vital services while at the same time allocating significant new funding for this law,” Jones continued.

A recent survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators shows that for the 2012–13 school year, 61 percent of school districts will increase class size, 37 percent will reduce tutoring for struggling students, and 11 percent will reduce full-day kindergarten. It is indisputable that these cuts will adversely impact the quality of education.

Funding is cut for education and other vital services while funding abounds to implement laws that RSOL and others oppose because no element of this new legislation was based on evidence or research showing that it will improve public safety. In fact, all available evidence contradicts the premise of these laws. As long ago as 2007 when Human Rights Watch published No Easy Answers, the evidence was clear that the registry as it has evolved does not accurately predict recidivism nor does it play any significant role in reducing recidivism or in stopping the sexual abuse of children.

No study done since then has contradicted those findings; indeed; the most recent, from Lynn University and published scarcely a month ago, is even clearer in pronouncing, “New study finds federal sex offender law not effective.” Both of these studies, as well as others, raise the issue of these laws having undesired consequences that could actually work against the desired goal of public safety.

“We find it highly disconcerting that massive amounts of resources will be expended and that so many citizens’ lives will be needlessly and permanently affected, and, yet, the end result will likely be an even more dangerous community,” Jones concluded. RSOL promotes the elimination of sexual abuse and the preservation of civil rights for all individuals through the use of effective legislation based on empirical research. We envision sexual offense laws based on equal justice and respect for the dignity of all people, protection from retroactively applied punishment, and the establishment of fact-based laws and policies which protect our communities.

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10 Thoughts to “Challenge to PA Sex Offender Law Begins”

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    My son is on this and since his prision relase life has been so hard for even us as a family for helping him find housing to getting any kind of mentel health help to helping him find jobs it’s almost like no matter how he trys no one will give him a chance it’s life one mistake cost him a life setence

    1. julie norr

      This sounds so much like our family’s story .be strong . And our pastor and our faith has helped along this 10 year journey . Things will get better. Keep the up the fight . Your mistakes don’t define you . Praying for new and better laws in the future . Best of luck to you.

  2. Joe Kohler

    How do I find out if the Adam Walsh act applies to me legally? I was sentenced in 2000 in PA at which time I had a 10yr registration period. I have completed my sentence and am off parole with no subsequent probation. Thank you.

    1. Michael

      The way an attorney explained it to me is, if were were convicted for a sexually violent offense, were not incarcerated or on any term of supervision and had completed the registration requirement BEFORE December 20, 2012, then you would no longer have to notify and register. So, it would seem that you would not have to notify or register. I would contact an attorney to confirm. Plenty of them give free consultations.

  3. Dimitri Lopuchin

    My son was DD’d and convicted of sexual assault. No physical evidence, no witnesses, the accuser claimed she blacked out. Even the prosecution’s medical expert said that a black out is a loss of memory not of consciousness. The govt wanted to put him away for 3 years; the jury gave him 60 days.
    He was in A school and there was a 48-hour liberty given. A group of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps personnel decided to get a hotel room and have a party. My son was invited but he didn’t want to sleep on the floor with 7 other people. He told me so a few nights before the party. I told him to get his own room and I would pay for part of it. I sent him money for his own room. At the party he connected with an AF girl. They eventually went with two others to a local club/casino. They partied, danced, made out on the dance floor etc…. My son ended up taking the the girl back to his room….. In the morning they woke up, commented on each others hickeys and stayed in bed together. They then went to the room where the 7 other people had stayed where the girl said to them that she didn’t remember anything. My son was confused and pulled her aside to explain what happened. The prosecutors accused my son of being a predator and that he planned the whole thing. They claimed that the girl was trying to get away from my son while they were at the casino. All hearsay. Anyway, we are in appeal for this but in the mean time he has to register as a sex offender. He is home and working but this has been tough him and us his family. His dreams of a navy career are shattered. In my eyes he did nothing wrong. I am very disappointed in our government for allowing what amounts to witch hunts against so many good young men.

    1. Tom

      I deeply feel for your son,, and I as registerd sex offender that was only suppose to be on for 10 years now has to be on for life.. this is getting way out of hand and yes it is a witch hunt because this is the only breed of crime that the government can do this too .. I am truly saddened for that young man because of these changes and this new law without question will probably destroy the young mans future senselessly .. I wish you and your family and son the best of luck and I hope it works out for him…

      1. Dimitri Lopuchin

        Thank you.

  4. Michael

    Can anyone confirm this?

    On another law blog I made the comment that states should credit people for registering in another state when moving to another. E.g., PA’s Tier I is like 15 years. So if someone from another state already registered for 16 years in another state, would PA credit that time and would that person be required to register.

    Someone said PA does in fact credit time and they posted this:

    9799.15 (a.1)(2)(ii)

    (ii) An individual registered pursuant to section 9799.13(7), (7.1) or (7.2) for a sexually violent offense shall register for the period set forth in subsection (a), less any credit as a result of time registered in a sexual offender registry for that sexually violent offense in the foreign country or other jurisdiction where the individual was convicted.

    Can anyone confirm that PA does in fact credit people for time registered in a sexual offender registry in another state, or foreign country for that matter?

  5. Frank

    I was convicted in FL in 2007 and required to register. I moved home to PA in 2009 and PSP said in their letter I had to register annually. This was before SORNA and annually was for 10 years. SORNA passed in 2012 and I was suddenly in Tier III. Now CYS is harassing my girlfriend, accusing her of leaving me unsupervised (which hasnt been the case). The Domestic Law they site seems to allow for Tier I offenders to be unsupervised with children. After some research, it looks as though PSP may have actually classified me incorrectly according to PA Statutes on the matter. Has anyone else ran into this and if so, what can be done? Someone else doesnt need to suffer the awful threatening harassment CYS is capable of because of my mistake a decade ago, especially since it appears PSP messed up.

  6. Theresa Statler

    My husband was convicted of incest in 2002. It was his adopted daughter, 16years old at the time. Did 18months County time , did not have to register, did 6 months probation and counseling. Since then a clean record until 2 years ago arrested on conspiracy to distribute drugs. Served 2 years in state, has 2 years parole….issue? The parole board says he has to do sex offenders counseling, group and one on one, polygraph and cannot be reunited with family. No contact whatsoever with grandkids can’t even talk about them. How is this possible. We need someone’s help and I don’t know where to turn. The law is tearing this family apart. We live in PA.