Crimes of a sexual nature will always be considered a controversial issue. As a political hot-button topic for the past decade in particular, many states have been revising their rules in order to accommodate the increasingly negative public opinion on the subject. Pennsylvania has recently entered the fray by enacting Senate Bill 1183, expanding registration rules for convicted sex offenders.
Following the precedent set by the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the state has expanded its registration requirements for those found guilty of sexual offenses in accordance with the national guidelines. These new prerequisites to the already strict Pennsylvania sex crime laws take effect on December 20, 2012.
The new piece of legislation replaces the present “Megan’s Law” system. According to the law, the most serious sex offenders in the state must report their addresses every three months to both the parole and probation departments of Pennsylvania law enforcement. Those convicted of lesser offenses will be required to report their whereabouts every six months to a year, depending on their specific crimes.
One of the primary additions to reporting guidelines is the inclusion of digital and internet profiles. In addition to the basic requirements like name, address, employer and driver’s license information, offenders will need to supply the state with usernames for any social media websites that they use, as well as email and internet service provider addresses.
A decidedly controversial aspect of the new provision is the retroactive nature of the reporting requirements. Simply put, when the provision takes effect, a convict’s “new” registration period will be determined by the “new” time-frames for sexually violent offenses. This means that, in certain cases, even if the individual has completed seven of ten years, his or her registration period will increase to 15, 25, or life.
Some of the primary sexual offenses that will be included in these new requirements include:
- Sexual Assault
- Statutory Sexual Assault
- Sexual Conduct with a Minor
- Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse
- Indecent Assault
- Aggravated Indecent Assault
- Institutional Sexual Assault
- Indecent Exposure
This presents many issues to those who have paid their debt to society and are now continually paying for the mistakes they made in the past. Not only will this bring additional pressure to those convicted, it could also end up costing the state and the taxpayers a great deal of money.
This puts the states in a difficult position, because, under the federal law, they will lose 10% of their funding if they do not comply. Some states, like Texas and Ohio, have refused to pass their own versions of this bill, for two stated reasons: First, that the cost to implement the law would greatly exceed the loss in funding, and, second, that the Act takes a “one-size-fits-all” approach for all states, despite the many differences that exist between state law.
These expanded requirements will disproportionately affect the many Pennsylvania residents convicted of lesser sexual crimes. This is why it is so important to keep from being forced to deal with this difficult situation in the first place by working with a qualified Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who has experience in this volatile and complicated area of law.