Pennsylvania, along with all other states comply with Megan’s Law, a federal law. Recently however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has started hearing cases arguing that Megan’s Law is unconstitutional. The court has heard five cases in total arguing this point. Although the Justices are currently considering all arguments, it’s likely going to be a few months before they come to a final decision.
What is Megan’s Law?
Megan’s Law, also called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), is a sex offender registry database. Anyone convicted of a sex crime must register within the database kept by the Pennsylvania State Police. Registrants must remain in the database for 10 to 25 years, or even a lifetime, depending on the offense for which they were convicted.
Registrants must provide a variety of details about their life. They must include where they live, where they work, a description of themselves, and their convicted offense. Any time they move or any of the details change, they must re-register and include all of the same details, including reliving the crime for which they may or may not have committed.
Why is Megan’s Law Unconstitutional?
While the Supreme Court has been hearing arguments from public defenders about why Megan’s Law is unconstitutional, the prosecution has also presented their own case. Their arguments rely mostly on the fact that the general public has the right to know if they are living, working, or exposing their family to sex offenders.
However, what the prosecution fails to recognize is the fact that even when a name appears in the database, that person is not always a risk to public safety. Most of the people in the database in fact, pose no threat. In Pennsylvania particularly, the list is extremely inflated, and contains a number of people that have always been innocent, but were convicted by overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors.
Additionally, some offenders remain in the registry even though they have shown great remorse for what they have done. Sometimes a person must remain in the database for life, even though they were barely an adult when they committed their crime. Even though they have served their time and are supposedly free, they are not really, because they continue to appear in the registry. They remain in the database that prevents them from obtaining gainful employment, live in public housing, volunteer for certain organizations, or even travel.
It’s for these reasons public defenders are calling Megan’s Law unconstitutional, and why the Supreme Court now must make a decision on it.
Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys can Help if You’ve Been Charged with a Sex Crime
Being convicted of any crime will have far-reaching consequences that you will feel long after you have served your sentence. However, this is especially true with sex crimes due to Megan’s Law. For now, the only way to protect yourself is to speak to the right Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know how to defend against these charges to give you your best chance of retaining your freedom now, and for years to come. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 to learn more about how we can help.