Pennsylvania’s New Sex Offender Registry Law—A Broad Scope

Pennsylvania’s New Sex Offender Registry Law—A Broad Scope

Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry Requirements Expanded

Under pressure to prevent the loss of federal funding, the Pennsylvania legislature passed and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law in December, 2011, a bill that considerably broadens the scope of the state’s sex offender registry. The federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, known as SORNA, requires that all states adopt its provisions or lose substantial federal funding. Even though some components of SORNA have been held unconstitutional, Pennsylvania joined most other states in expanding the reach of its sex offender registry laws.

Applying the Registration Requirement Retroactively

The most significant change under the new law allows Pennsylvania to retroactively require registration. Under the new statute, if you have previously been convicted of a sex crime, and are currently on parole or probation for any type of offense (it doesn’t have to be a sex offense), you must register under Megan’s law. And you may have to register for life, based on the level of the sex offense.

So any conviction or plea bargain that includes parole or probation will require that you carry the stigma of a sex offender for the rest of your life, even if you had a single conviction, served your time, and have lived a model life ever since. A DUI could mean you have to register as a sex offender for something that happened decades ago.

Once you have been required to register, you must remain ever vigilant that you don’t violate the provisions of the law. Penalties for failure to register can include up to 15 years in prison. You must verify your location annually—if you fail to do so, you could face charges. If you change locations, you must notify Pennsylvania state police within 48 hours or you are in violation.

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