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PA’s “sexually violent predator” process ruled unconstitutional

By Eric Scicchitano . . .

A panel of appellate judges ruled last week that Pennsylvania’s established process to designate a convicted sex offender as a “sexually violent predator” is unconstitutional.

The Superior Court decision in a Butler County case found that the process — the designation carries lifetime registry and counseling under the state’s Megan’s Law — should not be undertaken post-conviction. The current practice of a review by the state’s Sexual Offender Assessment Board and a subsequent hearing with a trial court judge ruling on the board’s assessment is not legal, the court found.

The decision could spur a series of appeals by sex offenders previously deemed “sexually violent” and may force state legislators to rewrite the state’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

“We agree the decision weakens Megan’s Law. We are in the process of evaluating the decision and its ramifications. Sexually violent predators are the worst of the worst and the ones most likely to commit new sex crimes. Our laws need to reflect the risk that these sexual offenders pose,” said Greg Rowe, legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

Meghan Dade, executive director of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, said the board will “operate as normal” and complete all assessments ordered by trial courts. However, the subsequent hearings at trial courts are likely to be delayed.

“Some of those hearings are being postponed because everyone is reviewing the case,” Dade said.

The appellate court decision doesn’t prevent registration requirements. Offenders would still be required to regularly update their registry for either 15 years, 25 years or for life depending on which of the three tiers their convictions fall under.

What it does is prevent a lower-tier offender from potentially being ordered for lifetime registration as a result of a post-conviction assessment.

Read the remainder of the article here.

Read the decision here.

This topic contains 17 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Saddles 2 weeks ago.

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  • #26593 Reply

    Zedd

    That’s great news! Doesn’t affect me sadly. Misdemeanor sexual battery for dating a girl 2 months underage. Have to register for 15 years. Makes things really hard.

  • #26677 Reply

    James

    Does this mean anyone who was told 10 years on the registry and was changed to life time just because of the law changed is against the constitution? 1996 in Virginia non violent sex crimes was 10 years then later it was changed to life time.

  • #26685 Reply

    Tony From Long Island

    Can you post a link to the actual decision or at least the name of the case. Thanks.

    • #28003 Reply

      Dennis Pifer

      you need to research COM.-VS-BUTLER to review the complete opinion of the court

  • #26772 Reply

    Mark

    This is great news. First the PA court ruled that the registry was a punishment, which contradicts its legislative purpose. Note the PA court rules that a keystone element of the legislation is unconstitutional. At the very least, we will see an overhaul of this bill in the next 2 years.

    The more challenges are brought, the more cracks begin to form.

    • #26792 Reply

      Brian

      @Mark
      I’m sure there will be some overhaul that’s going to happen but they can’t apply it to anyone who has already been convicted and are already on the punishment. If they do apply it (RETROACTIVELY) then they may as well be expecting challenges and more lawsuits, I am so tired of people just wanting pass more laws against SO’s. Well I have news for them, (WE’RE NOT GIVING THE F UP). Not thaking it anymore!!!!!!!

  • #26903 Reply

    Steward

    The decision, Commonwealth v. Butler, in the Superior Court of PA is a landmark ruling in my opinion. The decision, which quotes Apprendi v. New Jersey, as well as the US. v Alleyne case, says that imprisonment is NOT the only form of punishment. Therefore, I think, what the court is saying is that the enhancements to Megan’s Law that being designated an SVP means that it is added punishment. Therefore, according to both Apprendi and Alleyne, these enhancements must be brought before a jury to decide if all of the elements are there which deem the offender a sexually violent predator. The added restrictions are lifetime registration, lifetime counselling, which the offender must pay for, and door to door picture notifications to neighbors within 500 feet of where the person will live.

  • #28004 Reply

    Dennis Pifer

    does this mean that anyone designated as a S.V.P. ,(in Pennsylvania), can now challenge the designation? Even if they were declared that prior to S.O.R.N.A?

  • #29696 Reply

    R

    What all this means is nothing cause bill 1952 passed so all winning appeals are void, we win they,ll just keep writing something up new again. It’s never gonna end, my only argument is going to be, if it is not considered to be punishment\punitive. And considered civil, then I should be able to sue the state for liable damages. Due to grief it causes me in my unsuccesive failure, to obtain and maitain gainful employment.

    • #31556 Reply

      Stew

      1952 did pass the House. It did not yet pass in the Senate. It too, in my opinion will be ruled unconstitutional because it is also extensive and it STILL violates Pennsylvania’s INDEFEASIBLE right to a good Reputation. I’m confident that the next cases to hit the PA Supreme Court will deal with that right. We shall see.

  • #30535 Reply

    Joseph Eigenmann

    Will the appelate decision have any affect on virginias law?

  • #31218 Reply

    Sam

    This a great first step to start over. As a tier 3 sex offender, i was accused of rape, i had a realationship wth a girl and the family approved of it, and well, lets just say the judge made me out to be a monster. I wont give up either, i say change is neccessary.

  • #31645 Reply

    Mike

    There are a lot of more sick criminals out there, and I’m talking about ruthless violent people who will kill in a heartbeat…just watch “The first 48.” Almost all of those offenders are repeat violent offenders. Contrary to popular opinion, the public doesn’t want most of your non violent sex offenders on the registry. They did not vote for it. If they were able to vote for it, they would most certainly want the names and addresses of car jackers, murderers, and violent felons over young men and women who made one mistake who hurt no one. It is the lawmakers who have made the sex offenders the premier hated group in America….only America I might add. I believe it is because they are hiding their own sickness by taking it out on people who have an extremely low chance to reoffend….that is the non violent sex offender!

  • #32584 Reply

    Saddles

    This violent and non-violent thing has me a bit puzzled. A person with a potty mouth that gives a sex pulp story over the internet to some teenager, and I’m sure people can tell by the one presenting the opportunity is going to either trick or over trick the other. How is that justice?
    Are we not suppose to call that person out. I mean after all they are ministers of God ordained to do Justice. So if one just says sure I’m come right down, without giving a potty mouth story or and than making a statement… on one condition, no sex… he is considered violent or non=violent .Something sounds wrong in Denmark with all this internet sex jargon and it is not American.
    Truth, Honor, and Justice is what America is, or should be all about. Yes our foundation is biblical principal but it seems that principle is long gone in todays world.

  • #33557 Reply

    Tammie Leigh Lawson

    So my question is related to Violent Sex Offender registers. Will PAs decision make it allowable for Virginia RSOs to seek relief from the Violent Offender Registry ? I want information on how to seek relief from Lifetime registration in Virginia because it’s unconstitutional and harsh. Does not the State infringe upon my civil rights at a Federal level? I’ll never give up!!! I want back down.

  • #33621 Reply

    David Niday

    I was convicted of Indecent Liberties in 1986 for inappropriately touching my 8-year-old daughter. At that time I was required to register for 10 years from the last offense of any kind including traffic citations. Due to SORNA, I am now a SVP and must register for life. In 2007, I married a woman in China. Due to my classification and inability to “prove beyond reasonable doubt” that I pose no threat to my 59-year-old wife, the Director of USCIS, in his unreviewable discretion, has denied my application for her visa to protect her well being. After 30 years and no other incidents. Congress granted the Director unreviewable discretion in making guidelines and decisions. These can not even be reviewed by the Supreme court. These guidelines include ” exceptions should be rare” and base the decision on the “severity of the many”, not the individual. This in itself is prejudice and bias. Beyond what this has done to me, an innocent woman is being handed a life sentence of never seeing the man she loves. We still remain married. What greater punishment than to deprive someone of humanity, and worse, someone innocent.

  • #33861 Reply

    Saddles

    Tammie good things come to those who wait. You know in todays government today in the USA it seems that anybody can run for president since their is not test that one has to be a Christian or if that’s the case one cam come out of jail and run for President’.This whole sex offender registry I believe is a test to see how government handles these situations.
    Now what’s a little bit of probation for punishment. Sure we have all paid our fines it would seem and are trying to get our selves together and get regular jobs and have some respect again but it seems government doesn’t see it that way. This lifetime label is wrong after one pays his or her punishment.
    Sure this thing in PA will help others across the States. What puzzles me is they say sex is the thing that no one can do.. Didn’t one of our Presidents get entangled in a sex scandal? Oh how we least forget.

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