Recap of 2017 Megan’s Law Changes
In Pennsylvania, it is mandated under Megan's Law that those convicted of certain offenses, most sexual offenses such as rape and indecent assault, must register with the state police, among other requirements.
If you recall, in 2017, we brought you the recent changes that were made to Megan’s Law on July 19, 2017, when PA's highest court released its opinion of the case Commonwealth v Muniz (No. 47 MAP 2016). In its decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the retroactive application of the state's SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) laws to be unconstitutional under the ex post facto clauses of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions.
Prior to this, Megan’s Law underwent a strict change in 2012. At that time the length of registration for certain crimes was increased from 10 to fifteen years and from 25 years to a lifetime in many instances. Unfairly, the law also retroactively applied these new registration requirements. Individuals who pleaded guilty under a deal that promised a 10 or 25-year registration suddenly found that they were now required to register for 15 years or even for the rest of their life.
Courts, including the Superior Court and those in Pennsylvania, allowed this clearly unfair result because they had always ruled that registration under Megan's Law was not "punitive" and therefore not subject to the prohibition of "ex post facto".
Going forward, those previously subjected to the retroactive application of Megan's Law in Pennsylvania would now be able to challenge that result in court.
2018: Changes Took Effect
It’s been a year since the court ruling took effect in 2018, and many individuals accused of sex offenses on the Pennsylvania sexual offenders list have been impacted.
In February 2018, a state supreme court mandate and new law led to Pennsylvania State Police starting the process of removing some 5,000 ex-offenders from the Megan’s Law registry.
Under House Bill 631, which was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on February 21, is an exemption for legal guardians who were charged with interference with custody of children, but hadn’t committed a sex crime - which would order them to be released from the sexual offender registration.
However, an approximate 12,000 names were still to remain on the registry to ensure public safety.
The biggest Megan’s Law case that has recently happened in the Philadelphia-area was in Montgomery County, PA, where Bill Cosby was legally labeled as a “sexually violent predator” and ordered to be placed on the sexual offenders list.
Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you believe you may be affected by the House Bill 631, or have been accused or arrested for a crime of sexual assault, rape, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child - you need a dedicated Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.
Scarpello & LaTour will stand by your side and fight to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today at (215) 732-0460 for a free legal consultation and to speak with one of our experienced trial attorneys.