Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law mandates that sexual offenders register and comply with various legal requirements of Megan’s Law, such as verifying their information annually and notifying authorities immediately of any changes in address, employment status, or student enrollment status.
A recent decision from the state Supreme Court showed that this law shifted the burden of proof onto offenders, creating an unnecessary loophole and disallowing a constitutional registry for sexual offenders. To address this situation, PDAA is working hard to close this loophole and create a constitutional registry of sexual offenders.
Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania mandates that sexual offenders register and inform the public of their presence, and Pennsylvania State Police make this information available online to anyone requesting it. Any who misuse this data face both criminal prosecution and civil liability.
Megan’s Law requires those convicted of serious sexual offenses and juveniles who commit sexually violent crimes when they age out of juvenile justice to register under it. Additionally, lesser sexual offenses that threaten child safety must be reported and organized into three tiers based on severity; Tier 3 offenders must provide updates every three months, or they face prosecution as failing to do so is considered a felony offense.
Megan’s Law significantly changed in 2012, when registration requirements were extended from 10 years to 15 or even a lifetime in certain instances. This new period applied retroactively – so people who pleaded guilty under an agreement that promised them 10- or 25-year registration were suddenly forced to register permanently. According to supporters of this legislation, the lifetime registration requirements promote public safety by helping authorities locate sexual offenders more quickly.
However, many who must register under Megan’s Law find the stigma associated with it an immense barrier to securing employment, housing, and education opportunities; developing relationships within their families; and accessing physical, mental, and emotional wellness resources and services.
Megan’s Law requires specific individuals to register, forcing many into doing so against their will. Many have taken their case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to challenge its provisions; judges are expected to issue rulings by early 2020 on these challenges, and this decision may have an enormous ramification on how Megan’s Law is implemented going forward; for example, if Justices strike down any portion that requires criminal sexual assault offenders to register as Sexually Violent Predators, then many cases involving these offenders will likely be dropped entirely and many criminal sexual charges dismissed.
Sexually Violent Predators
Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania mandates that those found guilty of sexual offenses must register their information. This allows local police to monitor them while giving the public more insight into who might live nearby. Anyone can search Megan’s Law website, which is organized by county. Individual profiles contain details like name, years of birth, address, school attended, employment status, photographs displaying identifying features like tattoos or scars, and license plate numbers/description of their vehicle(s).
Sexually violent predators (SVPs) must have been found guilty of serious sex offenses and exhibit behavioral characteristics which make him or her likely to commit more such crimes, according to law. Once registered as SVP, an offender will remain so until clear and convincing evidence can be presented in court to prove he or she no longer qualifies as such.
The Supreme Court held that this shift in burden of proof violates due process guarantees and invalidates the law. A judge can still decide whether someone meets SVP criteria; however, his or her decision must be based on an objective analysis that includes conviction records and psychological evaluation results.
Suppose a judge or jury determines that an offender is an SVP. In that case, they must be returned to the State Department of Mental Health for indefinite treatment and confinement in a secure facility. Law allows this offender to request a hearing, at which two psychologists/ psychiatrists with expertise in criminal behavioral disorders will evaluate and testify on behalf of the court; they also have access to legal representation and may present expert witnesses at this proceeding.
The SVP assessment board in Maryland comprises psychiatrists, psychologists, and criminal justice experts appointed by the governor. Meeting once every month, this body meets to evaluate individuals to ascertain whether or not they constitute sexually violent predators.
Sexually Violent Delinquent Children
Pennsylvania stands out when it comes to sexual offenders with Megan’s Law: an online database listing information on certain convicted sex offenders who reside within its borders and searchable by name or zip code – this provides peace of mind to anyone fearful they might become targets of an offender; additionally, Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania is highly complex and ever-evolving; part of a larger body of laws including Adam Walsh Act and SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act).
Megan’s Law defines someone as a sexually violent predator when they commit a sex crime or are found guilty of indecent assault, sexual offense, or child abuse. If one is found guilty, they must register with Pennsylvania State Police and be included on Megan’s Law public list. At the same time, residents living nearby the offender will receive flyers alerting them of this fact.
However, Megan’s Law is regularly challenged in court. For example, in 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Megan’s Law registration requirements were unconstitutional for individuals who committed qualifying sex crimes before December 20, 2012. As soon as this ruling came out, Act 10 of 2018 was quickly approved to address it – amending Megan’s Law to require registration either ten years later or even lifetime registration requirements in such cases.
The Commonwealth contends that criminal justice experts like Humphreys are expressly permitted to conduct SVP assessments and testify regarding them in court due to no provision in the statute disqualifying such experts from discussing mental abnormalities or personality disorders as evidence in court proceedings.
Pennsylvania law mandates sex offenders register with the police and undergo community notification to fulfill Megan’s Law registration and notification requirements, commonly referred to as Megan’s Registry or Meggan’s List in other states. Pennsylvania follows similar needs regarding registration and notification requirements; moreover, recent changes such as Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act offer enhanced registration and notification provisions that further supplement Megan’s Law registration/notification provisions.
Megan’s Law seeks to prevent sexual abuse by exposing offenders to potential victims, but serious reservations exist about its impact on victims, communities, and offenders. Research indicates that up to one-half of adult sex offenders subject to community, notification experience unintended consequences, including job loss/instability/housing instability/threats/harassment/property damage etc. Additionally, its high costs divert funding from programs dedicated to victims’ treatment/protective services/foster care/etc.
Despite these concerns, the law has proven successful in reducing sexual offenses committed by registered offenders and freeing up resources for other priorities.
According to law, individuals who commit sexually violent offenses or are identified as sexual predators must register their current and intended addresses with local police departments; these details will then become publicly available on the internet; police departments must actively disseminate this information amongst community members.
Police departments must also provide this information to people who have children and people working with children, such as teachers, childcare workers, and volunteers. Furthermore, it should be noted that the law does not prevent individuals from moving after being charged or convicted – the statute allows this possibility.
College policy mandates actively disseminating information regarding Sexually Violent Predators and those classified as Tier 3 Sex Offenders when received via community notifications from local law enforcement agencies under Megan’s Law. However, this policy should not limit student access to College facilities or activities when subjected to Megan’s Law notifications.