Pittsburgh’s largest daily asks Supreme Court to review Muniz case

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board . . . The state Supreme Court has thrown into question the registration of as many as 4,500 sex offenders statewide. The case giving rise to the ruling originated in Cumberland County, and officials there have 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. They should file the appeal to gain clarity on two important questions: At what point are sex offenders unjustly punished and to what extent should communities be informed about potentially dangerous people in their midst?

After 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered in 1994 by a neighbor with a history of sex offenses, New Jersey passed Megan’s Law, requiring certain sex offenders to register their addresses so the public would know their whereabouts. Other states, including Pennsylvania, followed suit and established Megan’s Law websites. Because of a requirement under federal law, Pennsylvania in 2012 revised its program and, among other changes, increased some offenders’ registration periods.

Jose Muniz challenged that. He was convicted of indecent assault in 2007, and his sentence, if imposed at the time, would have included 10 years of registration under Megan’s Law. However, he fled before his sentencing, only to be captured in 2014, returned to court and handed a sentence that included lifetime registration under the revised program, formally known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. Muniz argued that the longer registration was unconstitutional because the punishment he was given — lifetime registration — exceeded that allowed at the time his crime was committed.

Prosecutors argued that the registry program wasn’t punishment at all but a means of informing communities about public safety concerns. The Legislature specifically said as much in passing the law. The Superior Court accepted that argument, but Muniz appealed, and the Supreme Court sided with him.

The Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t only about Muniz. It calls into question the registration of about 4,500 other sex offenders statewide, including about 500 in Allegheny County, who were convicted before the 2012 changes and had their registration periods lengthened by them.

What’s the potential impact? Will the 4,500 be dropped from the registry? What about the future of the program and those registered since the 2012 revisions? Has sex offender registration gone too far? A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could provide guidance to Pennsylvania and inform practices in other states.

There’s no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case, and appeals are potentially time-consuming and costly. But Cumberland County really has no alternative. Communities deserve to know what the state can do to protect them. Defendants deserve answers, too.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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    • #18077 Reply
      Dominic Galliani

      My comment to you is this— When someone commits a crime say robbery and they serve their entire 10 year sentence, they are done. They served their time and they are released. Sex offenders are no different except that after they serve their maximum sentence they have the stigma of reporting on a registry. Now all in all the registry is not a bad thiung except that once it exceeds the maximum time of a sentence, now it becomes unconstitutional. If someone who is released is let out on parole, then if they mess up they can be re-incarcerated. But only until their maximum sentence is fulfilled, unless they commit another crime. If a sex offender serves their maximum sentence then they have 15, 25 or a lifetime to worry about going back to prison simply for failing to register. They didn’t even commit another crime and have served their maximum time and without re-offending they risk the opportunity to re put back in jail. This is unconstitutional. Also, it negatively affects the tranquility of life making it very difficult, if not utterly impossible to find a good job, and a place to live. Why does society feel that someone who commits a robbery, home invasion, or some other violent crime can serve their time and all is hunky dory. The registry should only be accessible to law enforcement and should only be utilized when there is a crime committed in the area of the registered offender. These laws need to be revamped because there are harsh. Any amount of time on the registry over and beyond the maximum sentence should only be available to law enforcement and should not be an immediate charge and incarceration unless its proven that the sex offender committed another crime. Statistics have overwhelming proven that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of any other crime. When a sex offender completes a program in prison, it lowers the recidivism rate even more. Think about it if it was your son that had committed a sex crime and how you would feel in reference to him being recommitted to prison simply for failing to register. There is a national organization out there who is working diligently at getting these laws revised and in some cases repealed. Maybe if the country in general was more informed their opinions would change.

      • #18128 Reply

        “Why does society feel that someone who commits a robbery, home invasion, or some other violent crime can serve their time and all is hunky dory.”

        Because this country is obsessed with sex but only as a negative thing in life. And they automatically link a sex offense to an offense against a “child”. And when people think of the words “child”, children”, “kid”, they think of someone like a Shirley Temple being molested, and that’s just not the case.
        We refer to anyone under the legal consent age to be a “child” or “minor”, yet that age of consent changes from state to state.
        In CT, I can date a 16 yr old and it’s 100% legal. But cross over to NY and all of a sudden 16 is a “minor child”. It makes no damn sense and that’s why I may not be showing the stereotypical “remorse” that so many expect me to have.
        No! I had a rendezvous with a post pubescent teenager no different than what I did with an older woman when I was a teen and no different than what Elvis Presley did with Priscilla.
        My “victim” is alive and well and can sit and eat dinner with her family. She’s not 6 ft underground.

        It is quite natural for older men to be attracted to youthful females. That’s NATURE. But people like to live in denial. And for every man (father) who likes to say what they’d do to anyone who touches their (teenage) daughter, you better trust that man has turned his head a few times to take a 2nd quick peek at young females. It’s NATURE.

        People who “offenses” where it was a statutory age issue should NOT be on the registry. Megan Kenka was not a teenager, she was a little child. And if the intent of the registry was to inform about people who have harmed kids that young, then how the hell did it turn into everything else like texting, high school dating, urinating behind a bush, etc?
        The simple answer: We are OBSESSED with sex. But only in a negative way. How sad.

    • #18766 Reply
      Edward Nakaula

      Being required to register as a Sex Offender i s a new sentenced being added on to a ” final judgment.” For those whom was not previously sentenced by the Court that sentenced them. But the United States Supreme Court has allowed it to take place, without re-opening the judiciary’s final judgment. Also, has allowed the Executive branch of government to continue to encroach into the Judiciary borders. Yes when the branches of Government join hands liberty is lost. For me, the State of Hawaii through the Prosecutor’s office, did charge me with 25 counts of non-compliance and each charge having a five years imprisonment, a “C” felony. The State held me for two years and seven months. The State had offerred me a plea agreement for a guilty plea on two counts and I would be released on probation and I would to stay on the registery for forty years, lies. I did all of my time and got out when Megan’s Law was in effect, and 15 years on registery. Then in 2009, with AWA I am now on it for life. The non-compliance was in 2012 to 2014 and because I refused to signed the plea agreement offerred, the State drop the charges and released me to collateral damages. I can not find a job, I can not find housing. Although there is no resident restriction for now. here in Hawaii But the clock is ticking and time is running short for me. Though I am not under the State’s parole or probation. The U,S Marshals came by to check if I’m in compliance, the threat of incarceration is just waiting to be achieved.

    • #19024 Reply

      As I understand it, Colorado is also visiting this issue in it’s Federal Court. I am hoping they rule justly and I am off this stupid registry.

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