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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 5 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mark 2 weeks ago.

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  • #26593 Reply


    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


    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.

  • #26772 Reply


    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


      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


    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.

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