A Massachusetts-based national group, Reform Sex Offender Laws Inc., said it plans to challenge tougher provisions of Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett a year ago.In a statement, the RSOL said it plans to soon challenge the sex-offender registration requirements of the law on multiple constitutional grounds.
The group’s executive director, Brenda Jones, said the provisions of Pennsylvania’s new law “transform what is supposed to be a non-punitive, civil regulatory measure into a form of lifetime probationary supervision for most persons on the registry,” which the RSOL believes to be blatantly unconstitutional. “And further,” she continued, “all individuals on Pennsylvania’s registry will see their registration periods dramatically increase, with the majority becoming life-timers. This,” she emphasized, “is a violation of the ex post facto clause.”
The changes to the law in Pennsylvania brought the state into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act, which aims to coordinate efforts between states in monitoring and tracking sex offenders by making more information available on a centralized Internet database. Additional information includes DNA samples, palm prints and fingerprints, passport and expanded vehicle information.
According to a summary of the law provided by the state Senate, offenders are placed in a three-tiered system depending upon the severity of their offense. Individuals convicted of a Tier I offense must register for 15 years; Tier II offenses require registration for 25 years; and Tier III offenses require registration for life.
Sex offenders in each tier are required to appear in person to be photographed and to verify and update information in the state sexual-offender registry, according to the Senate’s summary. Sexual offenders in the three tiers are required to appear annually (Tier I), every six months (Tier II), or every 90 days (Tier III).
After a sex offender registers or updates registration in the sexual-offender registry, according to the Senate’s summary, the law requires that notification be provided to law enforcement, probation and parole, schools and social service agencies responsible for protecting children.
In addition, the Pennsylvania State Police are authorized by the law to launch a new feature on the sexual-offenders website that will enable members of the general public to obtain information on sex offenders for any given ZIP code or geographic radius, according to the Senate’s summary.