Violent Crimes

Sexual Offender Registration Requirements Under Recently Expanded Meghan’s Law


In 2006, President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. As an update to “Meghan’s laws,” the Act created a national sex offender registry and greatly expanded the government’s and public’s ability to monitor sex offenders. The most restrictive part of the law is commonly known as SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act). Under SORNA, a state must implement a program in which defendants convicted of certain offenses must register with the database for a certain period of years.

As of 2012, Pennsylvania has complied with these stringent SORNA requirements. But what does it really mean to be a sex offender under this new law? More specifically, what are the consequences of being convicted of a SORNA offense? Below is an outline of the law’s requirements.


Under the law, the term sex offender is actually broader than its common meaning. Anyone convicted of a sex-related offense such as rape, sexual assault, incest or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, must register under SORNA. In addition, the law covers many crimes against children, such as child pornography, luring a child into a vehicle, corruption of minors (certain sections of the statute) and child prostitution/exploitation.

However, violent offenses are not the only crimes covered by SORNA. A defendant convicted of unlawfully restraining, kidnaping, falsely imprisoning or trafficking a minor must register. A defendant convicted of invasion of privacy, video voyeurism or certain online offenses must also register. In addition, institutional sexual assault includes not only the commonly-cited student/teacher relationship, but also extends to guards/inmates, youth counselors/juveniles, and sexual conduct within mental health facilities. These defendants must also register under SORNA.


Depending on the specific statute and prior criminal history, a defendant must register for a certain period of time. Offenders are classified as either Tier I offenders (15 year registration – must register and be photographed once a year), Tier II offenders (25 year registration – must register and be photographed twice a year), or Tier III offenders (lifetime registration – must register and be photographed every 3 months).

All offenders must register in each state he or she resides, works or goes to school. If an offender does not have a personal residence or is in transient, he or she must register once a month and provide a description of where he or she frequents. When registering, defendants must have new photographs taken and supply all biographic information, including telephone numbers, email accounts, social security number, social media accounts, licenses, passports, DNA, fingerprints and any changes in the above. If an offender wishes to travel outside the United States, he or she must notify the registrant.  All this must be done in person and within a specific period of time, although there are mailing exceptions. Natural disasters and personal problems do not allow a sexual offender to miss a deadline to register. A violation or misrepresentation of the registration or photograph requirements is a felony, punishable by mandatory jail time.

Under SORNA, the following information is publicly available online: an offender’s name, photograph, primary address, employment address, date of birth, physical description including tattoos and scars, vehicle information including make, model and license plate number, offense information, and compliance status. The public can access this information for as long as an offender’s registration period remains.


In very serious circumstances, an offender may be deemed a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). After an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB), a court may find an offender is likely to engage in predatory behavior. SOAB allows for the monitoring and community notification of these potentially dangerous individuals. When an SVP moves to a new residence or is released from prison, written notice must be provided to neighbors, HOA boards, schools, day care centers, colleges and universities, and CYS departments within a certain radius of his or her residence. The notice includes a photograph of the offender.


As one can see from above, sexual and child offenses are serious crimes. If you have been charged with a SORNA offense, you will likely have to register as a sex offender even if the offense did not involve sex. Be sure to contact a qualified attorney regarding the specifics of your case.

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West Chester Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Supreme Court Argument Regarding Life Sentences Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders

The topic of juvenile offender sentencing has received national attention recently when the United States Supreme Court held arguments regarding the prospect of limiting the harshest of these juvenile punishments. This is particularly important to those in Pennsylvania, considering the state has the largest concentration of juvenile offenders who have been sentenced to life without parole in the nation. The eventual decision has implications that extend to not only juvenile offenders, but also those that provide legal counsel to them.

On March 20, 2012, the Court heard oral arguments in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, two cases involving lifers who were fourteen when they committed murder. A majority of the justices seemed ready to move this argument forward, but it is still unclear how far they are willing to go regarding setting limits of such punishments.

This revisiting of juvenile laws could have a profound effect on the approximately 470 prisoners in Pennsylvania serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teenagers. In forty years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has gone from holding a small handful of juvenile lifers with no possibility of release to holding the highest number in the country. Nationwide, the number stands at around 2,589. A reversal of current laws will allow for many of these inmates to be entitled to a resentencing hearing.

Even with having committed horrendous crimes, the prospect of a lifetime in prison for a juvenile, who may or may not have understood the severity of his/her actions, seems to be unjust and antithetical to the intentions of our justice system.  One example is that of a Pennsylvania juvenile, who at fourteen years-old, set fire to the house of friends whose mom would not let them play with her, killing two boys in the process. Homicide may not have been the intention, but the crime was so serious that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania tried her as an adult, where her charges would come with mandatory sentencing. She was eventually found guilty of arson, two counts of second-degree murder and causing or risking a catastrophe. That was in 1976, and the offender is still in prison to this day for the crimes she committed at fourteen years old.

Had the young fourteen year-old been facing the death penalty, she would have had the right to introduce mitigating evidence, according to a Supreme Court ruling the previous year, striking down mandatory death sentences as cruel and unusual punishment. However, no such right is given to defendants facing mandatory life sentences. In Pennsylvania, this meant that her age, severe mental problems, history of abuse and neglect, and, most critically, rehabilitative potential were not up for discussion.

At the heart of the Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs defense is the argument that regardless of the crime, fourteen is too young to be discarded as beyond help. Teenagers are impulsive, prone to risky actions and highly vulnerable to peer pressure, and the younger ones are still quite far from mental maturity. “At fourteen,” the Miller appeal argues, “the major transformation in brain structure that will result in a sophisticated system of circuitry between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain, enabling adults to exercise cognitive control over their behavior, is barely underway.”

With this scientific understanding of the situation, the Supreme Court has made strides. In the recent hearings, the majority opinion in both cases were written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who said teenagers deserved more lenient treatment than adults because they are immature, impulsive, susceptible to peer pressure and able to change for the better over time. Bryan A. Stevenson, a lawyer with the Equal Justice Initiative, which represented both defendants in Tuesday’s arguments, said that logic should apply in at least some cases involving killings.

The United States Supreme Court should take the pragmatic and fair stance of not only prohibiting sentences of life without parole for offenders younger than fifteen, but barring the punishment for all juvenile offenders. This would allow both the juvenile in question and their juvenile criminal defense attorney to find a solution that allows for the offender an opportunity to prove that he/she may eventually be deemed fit to re-enter society, rather than just tossed in jail for life.

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Violent Crimes Attorney Michael J. Skinner Discusses Pennsylvania Armed Bank Robbery Laws and Punishments

Lamont Laprade, of Huntington, W.Va., was found guilty of robbing a bank at gunpoint in western Pennsylvania, Friday.  Authorities arrested Lamont Laprade as the getaway driver during a robbery and shooting of a teller at the Westmoreland Community Federal Credit Union, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in January 2010.  45-year-old David Mathis, of Crafton, was also accused of participating in the robbery and the violent crimes associated.  The accused crimes require a minimum of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  In Pennsylvania, a Judge may order restitution, and since it is an armed robbery case, he/she may rule that the criminal can no longer possess a firearm.

Sentencings for robberies vary greatly depending on several factors, particularly if the accused offended has a previous criminal record.  Robbery can be a felony of the first, second or third degree, and depending on severity of the degree, can result in maximum prison sentences of 20-25 year in federal prison. In this case, Laprade was found guilty of four counts of robbery; some of the charges are considered violent crimes in Pennsylvania.  Laprade was found guilty of several charges including bank robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy and using a firearm.  Crimes of violence, such as a weapons charge in West Chester, make the accused offender eligible for harsher sentencing.

Authorities say Laprade has a history of violent robberies with a weapon.  The armed robbery charge he faces could be a second degree felony offense under subsection (a)(1)(iv) of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701, which happens when the offender is accused of inflicting bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear.  He could also face a third degree robbery offenses under subsection (a)(1)(v) if the accused offender physically took or removed property from the person of another by force however slight.

Robbery, violent crimes, illegal possession of a weapon and/or a firearm are serious crimes that, if found guilty, could result in years of prison and damage a person’s future forever.  If you have been accused of one of these crimes or any other criminal offense in Pennsylvania, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer to help navigate you through the legal process and help you avoid the harshest punishments.  West Chester criminal defense attorney Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC has represented clients accused of misdemeanor and/or felony crimes since 2007.

Call (267) 388-3476 to set up a free detailed consultation discussing your case with an actual attorney.  The more information you have and getting an early start on creating a defense could ultimately help you reduce or even dismiss serious charges and aggressive sentencing; so, call now, even if you have not been charged but may be expecting a criminal charge.  Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC respects attorney-client confidentiality.  Skinner Law Firm, LLC accepts cases in Chester County, Lancaster County, Berks County, Delaware County and Montgomery County.

Also posted in Criminal Process, Current Events, Gun Law, Pennsylvania Statutes, Robbery | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Violent Crimes Attorney Michael J. Skinner Discusses Pennsylvania Armed Bank Robbery Laws and Punishments
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