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PA’s high court rules retroactive SORNA violates constitution

By NARSOL’s editorial board…..

Breaking and exciting news comes today from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This is, as far as we know, the first published analysis of the case:

The NARSOL contact in Pennsylvania reached out to someone who is knowledgeable about the case, and he sends us this analysis:

By Jerry Berardi….

In a 6-1 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Muniz, ruled that 1) the provisions in SORNA’s registration constitute punishment notwithstanding the General Assembly’s identification of the provisions as non-punitive; 2) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions violates the federal ex post facto clause; and 3) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions also violates the ex post facto clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Defendant Muniz was convicted in 2007 of two counts of indecent assault arising out of an incident where he touched the breasts of his girlfriend’s 12-year old daughter. At the time of the offense, the registration period for Megan’s Law was 10 years. Muniz failed to appear for his sentencing hearing and absconded until he was captured on unrelated charges in Rhode Island in September 2014. SORNA replaced Megan’s Law III in 2012 whereas persons convicted of indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, 18 Pa.C.S. §3126(a)(7), are now categorized as Tier III offenders and are required to register as sex offenders for the remainder of their lives. Accordingly, Muniz was sentenced to 4 to 14 months’ imprisonment and ordered to comply with lifetime registration requirements under SORNA. Muniz filed a post-sentence motion seeking application of the 10-year registration period under Megan’s Law III, which was the law in place at the time of his offense and conviction instead of lifetime registration under SORNA. The trial court and the Pennsylvania Superior Court denied his motion, which was then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s ex post facto clause provides greater protections than the federal counterpart, and SORNA’s registration provisions violate the federal clause; therefore, they are also unconstitutional under the state clause.

The logical assumption is that this ruling means that all registrants who were sentenced to register for a specified time period before SORNA took effect in 2012 will now revert to that time frame instead of the enhanced registration requirements brought about by Pennsylvania adopting SORNA. The implication is, then, that those originally sentenced to a 10-year registration period pre-SORNA will no longer have to register for 15 years.

More on this highly significant ruling will follow.

This topic contains 16 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Paul 2 days, 5 hours ago.

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  • #19184 Reply


    Above Supreme Court ruling came out two days ago. Apparently Spann’s pending case in Supreme Court was remanded back to Commonwealth court in order to give him relief based on Muniz… Muniz is the law of the land,according to one of the Muniz dissenters (Mundy).

    So why – given that our own Supreme Court is granting relief based on Muniz,
    Why are others still waiting for relief?!!

    So why

    • #19370 Reply


      Looks like old Leroy is still up on PSP’s website Theses frs are out of control. No respect for the supreme court. PSP thinks they run the state.

  • #19133 Reply


    Spoke with ML section PSP today, they have no new info., said they are waiting to hear what the AGs office decides to do. I have two ten yr registrations from 2003 they combined them to make a life reg. Didn’t tell me that when I took a plea. I asked the PSP officer today on the phone if the A.S, decision got rid of the two or more thing to make life reg she said yes my tier 3 is from 2012 when they increased the time for Indecent assault 7, So the Muniz case should revert me back to a 10yr reg and they cant combine anymore to make life so my time should be up. Haven’t heard if DA Freed appeal has gone anywhere yet someone said the 19th of aug is the deadline others say 90days for them to appeal to SCOUS

  • #19006 Reply

    Dave C

    I am sex offender in PA. I was arrested in February of 2005. I was originally given 10 years which was moved to 25 years. I have completed 10 years and I am due relief from the Muniz decision. Is there any action planned in court to expedite the PSP to actually remove offenders from the registry? Is there any action planned to repeal SORNA since it was deemed punitive?

    • #19087 Reply


      To the guy in pa, I’m here also, and I sure hope so. I talked to my public defender about this, and my pending case. And funny he said you know more about this stuff then I do go figure, sounds like appeal’s will have to be filed. And I recommend anyone with public representation. Keep on them cause there in no hurry to help out, due to there heavy caseloads. And yes as far as I’m concerned, all that are due relief. Should get together and file a class action lawsuit, the law has no problem with a speedy arrest when we allegedly screw up. But when something goes our way, it gets kicked aside, wrong wrong wrong.

  • #18765 Reply


    Can someone answer the following: If an original conviction date in 1992, followed by a violation of probation for misdemeanor DUI in 1997 on the original crime in 1992, does PA consider the single act crime in 1992 or go by the VOP which resulted in remaining under jurisdiction of DOC until 2001?

    I sexually battered my wife in 1991. Adjudicated in 1992. Forced to register for life as Tier III down here in floriduh. Any information greatly appreciated. floriduh list my date of offense as 1997 on the registry. I didn’t rape anything but too many beers then drive a car for 1997 VOP. Just wondering how PA would view. Thanks.

  • #17392 Reply


    Who was the Attorney? Missouri is out of control ! looking like Florida.

  • #17207 Reply


    I’m curious as to how or if this will have ant impact on Michigan’s 6th circuit court ruling? Any ideas?

  • #16599 Reply


    It is my prayer that anyone who is delayed in being removed from the registry whose conviction date mandates their removal have some legal recourse to sue the jurisdictions not adhering to the Court’s decision.

    Federal funding has certainly motivated states to punish folks against their own and the United States’ Constitutions. It seems to me, having large chunks of money lost to civil law-suits by those punished beyond a court’s order when they should not be would equally compel states to comply in a timely manner.

  • #16247 Reply

    PA SO Editorial
  • #15685 Reply

    Steward Steckley

    The interesting thing about this case also leads to how/who will register and for how long. No one really knows at this point.

    One thing that needs to be understood is that the old Megan’s Law in PA (Megan’s Law II) was ruled unconstitutional as well, so Megan’s Law II kicked in. However, with SORNA, the statutes that governed Megan’s Law II, that is 42 Pa. C.S. 9799.1-9799.9 all expired on December 11, 2012. With them being totally expired they don’t exist, therefore, unlike Megan’s Law III, which wrote over 9799.1 through 9799.9 of title 42 there really is no law to “revert” back to. Just an annalysis I came up with. I’m not a lawyer, but, if there’s no law on the books to revert back to, then there is no Megan’s Law at all in PA. Just an interesting theory I’d like to present. Comments?

    • #18080 Reply


      Very interesting. I’m curious, run this past an attorney?? Most of em’ are f’n trash that could care less, but you’re on to some good shit! Picking the proper angle now is crucial for me. Can you school me a bit more in regards to ML 1,2, and 3? Are you saying there was no ML at all in Pa. between 12-11-12 and 12-20-12????????????????? If so, can you confirm 100%??

  • #15010 Reply

    It doesn’t work!!

    Do the multiple convicted felony dwi criminals get relief from their registry too? What about the felony violent robbery convicts, do they get relief from their registry? My father wasn’t on a domestic violence registry for what he did to my mother, or to his wife prior to her.

    • #18082 Reply


      WTF are you talking about, read some books Bobby Ray!!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahaha

  • #14698 Reply

    John Covert

    I’d love to see something similar in Virginia. I was put on the registry for 10 years in 2009, then the state in its “wisdom” raised that to a minimum of 15 while I was serving my time. The change was ostensibly made to bring Virginia into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act, though this is just about the only part of Virginia’s program that is.

  • #13979 Reply

    Brenda Jones

    I was thrilled to see this win! It has been so long in coming — we first heard about a challenge as far back as 2014, so it has taken a long time to make its way to a decision. Glad it was worth the wait.

    I’ll be very curious to see if PA does any better at following the court’s orders than my own state of Maryland did. Here, after a similar decision, the state didn’t even want to take the plaintiff off! When they were forced to do that, then they tried to come back and argue that they still needed to list him because the feds said his offense must be on THEIR registry.

    Wrong, wrong wrong! There IS NO federal registry: it is only a grouping of all the different state ones. We successfully fought that and got an even stronger ruling that said the feds had NO separate registry and our state laws trumped the federal law. And not only Mister Doe should come off, but “all others so situated.” That took an additional 18 months or so. And even now, several years later, the state is STILL dragging its feet on some people who should have been removed or rolled back to their original registration terms.

    So here’s hoping that PA moves more quickly – I am hopeful because this ruling appears to be much stronger and clearer.

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