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Understanding Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registry

May 06, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A Pennsylvania community is left reeling after a woman that lived in Bucks County was found dead in a hotel room in Miami after going there for spring break. According to Miami police, the women was drugged by two men before they took her back to her hotel room and proceeded to sexually assault her. She was found dead in the hotel room days later.

Although the crime occurred in Miami, sex crimes are very common in Pennsylvania, as well. They are also taken extremely seriously and come with harsh consequences. Convicted individuals may have to serve jail time, pay high fines, and register as a sex offender.

What is the Sex Offender Registry in Pennsylvania?

The sex offender registry in Pennsylvania is a registry created and maintained by state law enforcement. The list contains the names of people that live, work, or attend school in the state and that have been convicted of a sex offense. In Pennsylvania, this law is known as Megan’s Law, as it is in several other states. There is also a federal Megan’s Law that applies in certain cases. While the federal law only requires community notification, the state law requires sex offender registration and community notification.

Is Megan’s Law Constitutional?

The state law requiring individuals to register as a sex offender after being convicted of a sexual offense has been challenged many times throughout the years. While the law once focused on only specific crimes, it was expanded in 2011 to include many other sex offenses, and also imposed longer registration periods. Some state courts, however, have found that some of these changes are unconstitutional, particularly when they were applied to some cases retroactively. The courts have also found that the new requirements are punitive, even though they were not intended to serve as a punishment.

Sex Offender Registry Tiers

Not all offenders that appear on the registry are treated equal. Tier 1 offenders are individuals that have been charged with offenses such as institutional sexual assault, unlawful restraint, or corruption of a minor. These individuals are required to have their picture taken by the Pennsylvania State Police annually for fifteen years.

Offenders that are considered as being in Tier 2 of the registry have been convicted of offenses such as prostitution involving a minor, unlawful contact with a minor, and indecent assault. These individuals must remain on the registry for 25 years, and have their picture taken by state police twice a year.

Approximately 60 percent of the state’s registry is made up of Tier 3 offenders. These offenders have been convicted of the most serious offenses, including rape, incest, and aggravated indecent assault. These offenders must remain on the registry for their entire life and have their picture taken by state police four times a year.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Charges

If you have been charged with a sex offense, it is crucial that you speak to one of our Allentown criminal defense lawyers today. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our seasoned attorneys will give you the best chance of avoiding the harsh penalties associated with convictions for sex offenses, including registering as a sex offender. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.


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