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PA: Megan’s Law mandate unfairly punishes offenders, court rules

[Updated with Decision] Some of Pennsylvania’s latest sex offender registration requirements run afoul of a constitutional ban on laws that create new penalties for people who have already paid for their crimes, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

The panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges also found, however, that requiring sex offenders to reveal their email addresses and other online aliases is not a violation of the First Amendment right to anonymous speech. Full Article

Decision: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Commonwealth/out/214MD13_10-14-14.pdf

Join the discussion

  1. Marie

    Disappointing.

    In an opinion for the unanimous panel, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer rejected Coppolino’s claims with regard to a majority of the new registration requirements, including mandates to appear in person to register four times a year and to provide extensive personal information, palm prints and DNA samples, plus advance notice of international travel.

    Jubelirer wrote that each of those requirements is related to public safety and not intended as a punishment.

  2. Eric Knight

    The headline is insidiously lacking in details. In fact, MOST of the challengers to the registry were REJECTED, including many of the more restrictive aspects such as mandates to appear in person to register four times a year and to provide extensive personal information, palm prints and DNA samples, plus advance notice of international travel.

    Indeed, with countries routinely rejecting RSO’s, advance notice of international travel is NOT a “community safety (hence regulatory) function of the registry), but an outright ban on travel which restricts movement. In addition, email addresses and user ID’s for Internet were ruled regulatory.

    The only thing that was ruled as “unfairly punishing” was the requirement to immediately register their cars and tempoary residences (including motels and weekend trips to grandma’s house), which in many cases would be impossible. But the vast majority of his challenge was denied.

    Bad court decision, and this leads me to believe the attorney was very ineffectual. It seems that we need to require any lawyer who plans to defend a sex offender (or challange as a plaintiff) to work with Janice Bellucci for a month.

  3. Lance Mitaro

    What a convoluted, train wreck the registry is. Built upon the foundation of the “public safety” lie, they continue to circle the wagon and defend it with reckless vigor citing we have to “err on the side of safety.” Pathetic and predictable.

    • Q

      Thank you Lance. It would seem you are the only other person on this site that has called the registry (aside from myself) and all the associated BS what it really is; a lie.

      • Tired of hiding

        Clearly you should read more of the comments on the site. Most have made similar comments.

        I think the vast majority for us have made similar comments calling the list everything from a “hit” list for crazies, to a scarlet letter, cruel and unusual punishment, to blatant lies using false information to justify its very existence!

        Do not think that you are alone my brother in the hatred we harbor for those who have enslaved us in this BS of the registry and just as the slaves before us had to fight to be AND to wait for the help of the masses who also noticed the unjust situation we have been put in we will not rest until we are FREE!

  4. Kevin

    I am a PA registrant…I find it so hard to believe that in person registration was not considered a punishment. When I register I am at the barracks for at least an hour. If you are job hunting and filling out online applications you’re forced to create logins for each company. If you apply for one job a day for 3 weeks you could be there everyday for an hour just to update Internet identifiers. You would spend less cumulative time in the station for a DUI or disorderly conduct. I spend less effort looking for a job than than I want to simply because I don’t have the free time available to spend hanging out at the state police barracks.

    • Tired of hiding

      They do not want to see. They are told LIES by politicians and believe those LIES! They are blinded by emotion when children are thrown into the equation.

      This battle is not fought fairly. Those in power have much to gain by our enslavement on the registry from keeping the for profit prison system running to manipulating the voters around election time.

      Also, the phantom threat of a sex offenders lurking around every corner in every city is a great way to keep the FEAR level high (more manipulation) which is good for keeping large groups of people distracted from real issues!

  5. anonymously

    I mentioned this in a different area , General Comments, but it belongs here.

    The Pennsylvania court found reporting internet e-mail/idenitifers as not stopping free speech since the information is not made public ( yet ). Even if the information is not made ‘public’, and not addressing Facebook having their own police force who could theoretically get the information on registrants internet identifiers, the very police force that received the registrant internet identifiers would likely be the subject of the speech by the registrant. Of course, this would stop the free speech of the registrant. Or even if the registrant was not speaking on sex offender topics, what if the registrant was discussing police abuse like that allegedly happened in Ferguson, Missouri or discussing police abuse in general or if the registrant was doing any kind of whistleblowing? The registrant would stop their internet speech altogether.

    • Katharine

      Anonymously, I completely agree with what you say about the chilling effect of registrants having to report their online identifiers. I would only add that I doubt those identifiers will ever be made public; not because the-powers-that-be have any concern for registered citizens’ privacy, but because it would be too easy and inexpensive for those citizens to organize a protest or an act of civil disobedience if they could all be contacted through email.

      • Timmr

        Wasn’t that the way it was for physical addresses, motor vehicles and employers, for police eyes only? Just takes someone to go before congress and claim she needs to know all the emails, so she knows when she’s communicating with a “predator”. By the way registrants would not be allowed to see the email addresses of other registrants.

  6. Kevin

    After speaking briefly with a PA lawyer that has taken a special interest in the application of SORNA in PA, it sounds like it’s not all bad news:

    “…you are correct that the Commonwealth Court in Coppolino found that Section 9799.15(e)(3), which requires registrants to appear quarterly, rather than annually is not punitive, and therefore can be applied retroactively.

    They did find to be punitive, however, the requirement of Section 9799.15(g) that a registrant must update changes in his registration information, including temporary lodging, cell phone number, and information relating to motor vehicles owned or operated, ***in person*** at a registration site within three business days.

    The component of the Section that “tipped the scale” was the “in person” requirement. The Court ordered the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police to not require Coppolino to “appear in person at an approved registration site”. It is my understanding that until lawmakers amend the language of this section, relief could only be sought by calling the PSP and referring to this case, or by filing a motion in court based upon this case. Remember, this decision applies ONLY to those who were retroactively subjected to this Section of Megan’s Law IV.”

    • Kevin

      So, here’s how they fixed this issue…beginning today registrants can print out a 3 page form and 5 pages of instructions to fill out and mail any changes. The mailing must be received within 3 business days of the change or you will face prosecution. The form must be filled out in its entirety even if only one minor thing changed. Then you have to hope and pray they receive it in 3 days.

      Is there anything more ridiculous?

      • j

        It sounds like they are doing everything imaginable to get registrants to fail to dot an I or cross a T. It seems rather like entrapment and conspiracy.
        These legislators should be exposed for their fundamental breach of constitutional protections as they aspire to higher office and big pay raises on the backs of voters purposely kept in the dark about recidivism and risk factors.

        Don’t hold your breath – they have instilled fear and panic and it will take many moons to undo that damage that has been wreaked upon registrants and their families in the most insidious of ways.

  7. anonymously

    ‘Is there anything more ridiculous’

    en.wikipedia.ord/wiki/Mark_Foley

    If you have any doubt still about the motives/mindset of those who create these cruel and unusual laws, look no furthur than the author of SORNA. Mark Foley was not convicted of any sex crime, which seems typical of anyone who furthurs these cruel and unusual laws such as Chief SORNA propagandist man-girl lover John Walsh, or Lunsfords son, where there was substantial evidence of their own sex crime guilt. John Walsh amnitted it. Deflecting their guilt by making themselves the creators of harsh laws, which they should be subject to. Find the section in wikipedia that states Mark Foley authored SORNA. It’s not clear if Mark Foley authored parts of it or all of it, in his wikipedia entry. Does anyone know if he authored all of it?

    • Robert

      He was given credit for help drafting the Adam Walsh Act. He was forced to resign two months after it became law.

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