Pennsylvania and SORNA: Take two

By Aaron J. Marcus . . . Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shook up long-settled orthodoxy by ruling that the state’s sex offender registration law, otherwise known as SORNA (Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act) was punishment. The case, Commonwealth v. Muniz, 164 A.3d 1189 (Pa. 2018), presented the Court with two questions: whether people who committed their crimes before the adoption of the law could continue to be registered without running afoul of the state Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause, a fairness doctrine that prevents governments from retroactively applying greater punishments to conduct than could have been applied at the time of the crime; and, second, whether the law more broadly violates due process by unfairly labeling a person as sexually dangerous without first proving that fact and without giving the person an opportunity to challenge that message. While the Court answered the first question with a resounding yes, it punted on the second.

The effect of that decision meant that although Pennsylvania was forced to reduce the length of registration for many people who had committed their crimes many years before, or in many cases remove them from the registry altogether, it did little to change how the law would be applied moving forward.  SORNA was largely left undisturbed for the roughly 1500 new people added to the registry every year.  The due process issue left undecided by the Pennsylvania high court in Muniz is now again before that court, and this time it will be harder to avoid deciding it.

One of the first people to be required to register under the new law was the defendant in Commonwealth v. Torsilieri.   Torsilieri was convicted by a jury of a non-consensual sexual offense. He had no prior record, the jury acquitted him of the most serious charges, and according to the trial judge he did not pose a risk of committing other crimes. Yet, SORNA automatically required him to register for the remainder of his life. He is now 27. Not willing to accept that consequence, Torsilieri filed a pre-sentence motion seeking to bar his registration under nine different theories. Specifically, he relied on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, which treats the right to reputation as fundamental and deserving of the same protections our federal constitution affords to life, liberty and property.  He also raised other claims under the state and federal constitutions, notably that SORNA is overbroad on its face and therefore cannot be applied to anyone without violating their rights to due process.

Although many of his specific claims have been raised by others seeking to challenge SORNA in the past, as we described more fully in earlier posts, the real strength of Torsilieri’s case is that he decided not to rely on legal arguments alone. He knew that facts matter, and that the facts are on his side. In support of his claims, he hired three of the world’s leading experts to present evidence that SORNA is overbroad and ineffective. The evidence and agreement is overwhelming, and importantly the state did not even attempt to rebut it. Torsilieri established that not all people convicted of sexual crimes are alike, and that many pose no more risk to the community of committing another sexual offense than people convicted of any other crime, from drug possession to theft. Most people now required to register will never reoffend, and even the few people who do, will do so within the first 10 years of their release. Moreover, he showed that SORNA does not keep us safe. It creates merely an appearance of safety, while in truth the law threatens the community by making those on the list second class citizens, thereby depriving them of the key things that reduce risk of reoffending, like jobs, family, and community reintegration.

Read the full piece here at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.

 

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Debo 2 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #54344 Reply
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    admin

    By Aaron J. Marcus . . . Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shook up long-settled orthodoxy by ruling that the state’s sex offender registr
    [See the full post at: Pennsylvania and SORNA: Take two]

  • #54380 Reply
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    Timothy

    Re- winding back to a time before electronic domestic surveillance which was the hidden ” something else afoot” in the run up to bartello (Alaska v Doe) which weighed ” the people’s use of electronic database for surveillance ” first. It was decided in that case that men’s right to good accurate reputation and privacy was outweighed by the need for knowledge about convictions of our neighbors and the right to post as registries do.

  • #54388 Reply
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    TS

    Can anyone find the court docs to read for this case? If so, please advise.

  • #54399 Reply
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    Timothy

    Timothy

    The strength is in the ” testimony” that same testimony can be had in FTR situations too.

  • #54664 Reply
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    Scott

    Hello, I have been off of the registry since 2010. The bad news is we are still considered a liability in almost every aspect of life. Housing? lol nope. Work? If you cant do manuel work, it is almost impossible to find a job unless you have family members or possibly a friend to get you a job for that time you need a job. I had a 60,000+ a year job but now that family member retired and they got rid of me with in 30 days. Nobody wants to help it would be a liability for anybody to stick there neck out for you. Never ending punishment is what it is unfortunately.

    • #55261 Reply
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      Chuck

      Hang in there Scott. Don’t give up. . This way you have skills they want. I have found several landlords that do not care as long as you have the credit score to get approved. My advice is to be honest and direct. You don’t have to be a walking billboard for SORNA but be honest about it.

  • #54752 Reply
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    Bryanna

    I think megan law could use a reform for some state who make you register as a sex offender for public urination, teen sexting or consensual relations,or a prostitute being convicted the second time. SORNA is great for those severe convictions the world needs to get Megan’s law back to were it was put in place for the children of the worlds safety and that is it. When did it become more about the convicted shame with registration then the child life or long,long ,long road of internal destroyant. We need to pray for our children growing up in this government mess. Megan’s law is for the children put it back in place NARSOL you can do it I believe you can.

  • #55334 Reply
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    Michael

    Hello, my name is Michael and in July of 2015 I was Pennsylvania on one charge of invasion of privacy with no minors involved.
    In August of 2013 I was accused of using an old cell phone to “sneak a peek” at a girls behind in my bathroom at my home in Gilbertsville PA. My cousins were there that night and not even involved and pressed charges on me. My one cousin, had just become a deputy sheriff in the County Court house and her Boyfriend had just become a part time police officer. They used scare tactics to get me to confess to this crime and even frisked me days later illegally. They told me if I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear and if I didn’t give them my cell phone, they would go to the police. I was later brought to the court in which my cousin works and was sentenced even though this should have been a conflict of interest. There were no minors involved and anyone who could have been considered a victim had recused themselves from the proceedings and did not want anything to do with it. There also was no evidence of any illegal activity on any of my devices that had been taken from me and my home. The only reason I got in any trouble was because I confessed to the police and to my cousins out of fear of getting in more severe trouble if I denied. We even had all of the official testing done by an expert in this field and he appeared in court stating that I do not meet the criteria for an SVP. The woman from SOAB never met with me and stated that I did in fact meet the criteria so they made me an SVP. This is unheard of for this type of crime. I knew that this all seemed very wrong and unjust. I have never broken the law before and worked for the township for 12 years. I went to college and had a respectable life at the time. After I was charged in 2013, I lost my home, job, car, pension, and promotion, insurance, and eventually became homeless sleeping in a field and can never be eligible to have a decent job again. I was given a life sentence for an M3 with no priors when technicalities, scare tactics, and conflicts of interest could have been applied. I was also give 7 years of probation as well. I cannot go on like this anymore and something needs to be done. My sentence is now an “illegal sentence”, so why cant I do anything about this? Megan’s Law has gone too far and is creating an entirely new decay of society. It is counter-productive and does not accomplish anything it has set out to. It is only permanently ruining lives in every aspect. I feel like a case like mine could be used as weight for Arron Marcus to drive his facts home to the judges.

  • #56066 Reply
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    Mike

    I was placed on the Megan’s list in November of 2010 for ten years . Next year, 2020, I will be on this list for ten years with no arrests. Back in 2012, I was place in Tier 3 and had to register for life. Then in 2015, I received a notice in the mail that my Tier level was changed to Tier 2. It had something to do with Pennsylvania is not allowed to classify offenders by the number of their offenses. Then in May 2018 I was moved to Tier 1 when we had to register again prior to the new SORNA law. After I received my new registration form to comply with SORNA, my offender status was once again changed from Tier 1 to “pending review”. It’s been nearly one whole year since I was placed on “pending review”. Recently, I called Harrisburg and I am told that I am still on “pending review” and that they cannot tell me any other information. Does any of this make sense to anyone? I haven’t even received any notice about my next registration period. I am simply told over the phone that I will receive a notice by mail as to when I will have to register again. Am I the only one who is experiencing these pending review “mind games”? How can a non-violent sex offender go from a ten year registration, to registering for life in Tier 3, then be moved to Tier 2, then to Tier 1, then to “pending review”. Can anyone explain this to me?

    • #56180 Reply
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      Michael

      Mike, it’s because the courts literally can do whatever they want. My offense was not physical and there were no minors involved but I was designated an SVP. My case is the only one of its kind in all of PA. They are so unorganized and really don’t know how to implement this correctly because it is mostly all so draconian that it puts the establishments in uncharted territory. They are throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. I would try and contact a lawyer or they will eventually just give you what they want. The decisions you don’t make for yourself will be made for you eventually.

    • #56232 Reply
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      Chuck

      Mike,
      The case Aaron mentioned and one other one is before the PA Supreme Court right now. Expect to hear something from the PA Supreme Court around Early 2020. Until then, a lot is up in the air. Until the Pa Supreme Court rules whether the 2018 “fix” to Megan’s law is constitutional or not, there is a lot of confusion out there. If I was you, I would hang on until we hear from the Pa Supreme Court in the above-mentioned cases. The Dockett numbers are 35 MAP 2018 and 37 MAP 2018.

    • #56233 Reply
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      Chuck

      Mike,
      I just got my review completed. They removed the additional 5 years SORNA gave me. Like you I was convicted before 12/20/2012. I will be finished in July 2020.

    • #56234 Reply
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      Chuck

      Mike,
      It is VITAL to stay compliant until you receive your letter that says you are completed. you MUST stay complaint until you get this letter. Take a deep breath, they will get to you. It takes time. They have to request your original court paperwork from the Court that Convicted you and they need to check to see if you spent any length of time in jail since being on the registry. You do NOT receive credit for time spent on the registry while in jail.
      I know it is hard waiting. I just went through the same process. Take a breath, it will happen. I promise you, they will get to you.

  • #56249 Reply
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    Mike

    Thank you. Your encouraging comments meant a lot to me. Also, I have been compliant with all of the rules since I got out of prison. My tenth year date is in November 2020. I’ll keep you posted on any information I receive in the mail.

    • #56283 Reply
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      Chuck

      Mike,It is also important you don’t say to yourself, ” Well, its Nov 202, I don’t have to report”. NO NO NO NO NO NO…. Until they say you don’t IN WRITING you MUST. You say, “But I only have 10 years.” The proper procedure would be to report and then sue them. Let the Court tell them to get on the stick. Just me, if it is after Nov 2020, and you didn’t lose any time for going to jail, as soon as they find out you filed, they will drop you that day. NEVER EVER take it upon yourself to stop reporting.

  • #56426 Reply
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    James

    Hey everyone. After reading all these posts I’m in the same category as u all. I am blessed to have a good job and just recently purchased a house and getting married. Mike and all the others here just comply with what you have to do, because things are going to change its matter of time. I recently spoke with the lawyer that is handling the tossilli case and they are confident that its gonna change. Actually if you look at SORNA AND SORNA II is take us back to ML 3 where the state was using a log rolling affect to make things work but eventually the statue or law was voided. I have been putting up some money nearly 15000 to get my cleared and I’m fighting for us. I’m willing to dump another 15000 into a fight. Right now a judge has me illegally registered because she told the PSP to register me as ML 2 or 3, in which ML 3 is voided and ML 2 was superseded by Sorna or ML 4 in 2016. She granted our petition that I dont have to register under SORNA, but I have to be registered under ML 2 OR 3 which is illegal. She cant impose a law that’s no longer a law. So I’m just riding this out and coming up with a game plan to sue the State for everyday I’m on registery. Though I’ll be done in 2022.

    • #56490 Reply
      Avatar
      Chuck

      James,
      If you read the Muniz decision you would know that this was the case the PA Supreme Court was waiting for. I am highly confident there will be changes due to Torsilieri’s case. It might not be as much as we want, but there will be changes. The Commonwealth has until June 13, 2009 to file their reply brief in his case. The docket number is
      37 MAP 2018.

  • #56594 Reply
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    Michael

    Unfortunately I disagree. I wish I could be confident that things will change, but I know the history of human nature all too well. We live in a vengeful world that loves to hate together. For every one person out there trying to fight these draconian punishments, there are a hundred more with money and power shooting everything down. I was designated an SVP so it’s especially bad. Every day i am in a constant state of fear and torture. Being designated a lower tier would be like winning the lottery at this point. Even just doing away with the 25 notifications to my neighbors every time I move would be such a relief. It will never happen though; we don’t live in a fair and just world. We live in the dark ages. To know I’m the only case of its kind in an entire state is like winning the lottery in hell. I have now become the byproduct of human nature for life and the world seems to love when this happens.

  • #56850 Reply
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    Debo

    Mike Just do what PSP tells you You do not need to go in until you receive a notice from PSP Call PSP a few days before your anv date they will tell you if you need to come in Do not register at PSP unless they tell you otherwise, Do not listen to people on here that still need to register I do not need to reg anymore, and I know what I’m talking about.

  • #56926 Reply
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    Michael

    I’m sorry debo, but if Mike did not have official documentation signed by a judge clearly stating that he no longer needs to register and is clearly taken off the list ; they have grounds to charge him with a felony. We also have to register regardless of whether or not we receive a notice in the mail. Mike, keep doing what you are doing until you have signed documentation from a judge stating otherwise, don’t risk going to prison for failure to register.

  • #58895 Reply
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    L. H. R.

    You are free at last. Rest in peace Jeffrey Epstein.

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