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PA: Ruling raises questions about sex offender registry’s future

Changes are coming to Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry as a result of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision issued this week, but experts say it’s unclear exactly how they will play out. Full Article

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  1. Eric Knight

    “Part of the Supreme Court’s decision was that the registration requirement constitutes a form of punishment, a distinction that legal experts said could have implications for how the system will work in the future.”

    Ya THINK?? ANY form of punishment effectively should invalidate the existence of the registry in the first place, as determined by the “Price Club” arguments put forth in Smith v. Doe.

    • David

      The writer fails to use the most important key word anywhere in his article: “Unconstitutional”!! 😠

      And the victim rights advocate Storm notes, “I think we’re going to need to look at legislatively, what can we do to ensure the registry is beyond reproach.” Well, being certain such requirements are Constitutional might be an excellent first step!!

  2. It doesn't work

    It like a membership to the Price Club.

  3. Harry

    It is ironic that the EXPERTS can not figure anything out.

    • Timmr

      Oh, they are very adept at figuring out how to circumvent the Constitution.

      • AJ

        Aided by courts that assume Legislatures are acting honorably and have done due diligence with findings. The Courts seem to be trying to play honorably, all while the other two branches play dirty.

  4. Lake County

    Jennifer Storm, the state’s victim advocate stated “I think we’re going to need to look at legislatively, what can we do to ensure the registry is beyond reproach.”

    In other words she wants to find a way around the constitution. Well it’s the legislators that got you into this mess in the first place. The only way to make it beyond reproach is to abolish it completely.

    • Registry Rage

      Exactly. You can’t tweak, hone or polish something that’s ineffectual in design and application to begin with.

      I’ve never in my life seen a group of people (lawmakers, cops and child safety advocates) so proud of something that offers ZERO intrinsic value to public safety, yet they cling to the “I want to know” nonsense for the illusion of comfort and control benefit.

  5. Chris F

    This part:
    Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed, whose office prosecuted Muniz, said the decision raises questions about whether the current law provides the sorts of procedures normally required when a court is handing down punishment.

    “What do we have to do in order to impose it? I don’t know that we know the answer to that question,” Freed said. “Does that have to be decided by a jury? What sort of notification requirement is there?”

    The answer is, you have to abolish the registry and put punishment and protecting the public back in the hands of the judges, and decided during the fair sentencing phase of trial based on the individual and circumstances.

    Now that it is punishment, it also is a Bill of Attainder, and cannot be applied to those after the date it became law either. The legislature CANNOT target a specific group, especially a politically powerless and hated group, with a law that adds punishment beyond what the court determined. That can only come from the judge. The legislature can provide tools to the judiciary to create punishments, but can’t provide extra punishment directly to a group in addition to what the judge decided. It’s a clear Bill of Attainder and the determination uses the same Mendoza-Martinez factors to determine that it’s punishment that ex-post-facto uses.

    • AJ

      Yeah, he sure sounds like a whip-smart legal beagle, doesn’t he? Let’s see, Mr. DA, how do you normally go about imposing PUNISHMENT on someone? Same rules, dude. Sheesh.

      • Civil rights first

        @AJ, I’m not sure I understand your criticism of Chris post. While a Bill of Attainder claim would be very difficult to win do to the fact there are so few cases to go off of. He isn’t totally incorrect. These registration laws, IML, AWA, etc. Are legislative acts that single out am easily assertainable group and punish without a trial. I would think we can all agree we have been waiting for a court to rule SORNA is PUNISHMENT and unconstitutional. Getting that punishment ruling would definitely help in getting a Bill of Attainder ruling but I’m not sure we are there yet.
        I’m not in PA but I’m very excited about this ruling because the state I am in did the exact thing to me. My conviction was 1997 and WA changed the length of registration and my ability to petition relief ex post facto so this gives me hope that the s#!~ sandwich they have forced us all to eat is just about consumed.
        Now I’m not a great legal beagle I’m only going off of my uneducated inturpuation of things I’ve read and I may be so far off track shop if I am past excuse me.
        We can only hope

        • AJ

          @Civil rights first
          ??? I in no way criticized Chris F’s post. I was mocking the DA. Chris F and I are–to a frightening and high level–quite often on the same page about these things.

        • Civil rights first

          My bad… I thought you were mocking chris..
          On that “frightening and high” BS I’ve noticed lately there has been a little acknowledgment that isn’t true but now to discredit the true recidivism rates they are saying stuff like for every statistic that says x there is another statistic to say y so let’s just err on the side of caution and go with public safety to heck with RSO’s rights

        • AJ

          @Civil rights first:
          No worries, brother (I assume). I can sometimes be a little ambiguous in my writing, and could see how perhaps it would be taken as you did.

          Yes, the argument does seem to have shifted on the percentages. I think they realize the “frightening and high” 80% ground upon which they’ve stood has been proven to be quicksand. So instead they’re going for the “if it just saves one child” argument, either explicitly in word or implicitly in message, because that always works. My question to the Courts is, “at what point does the rational basis fail?” I can cede that if 4 out of 5 (i.e. 80%) are likely to recidivate, the law seems just. But what about when it’s 1 out of 100, or 8 out of 1,000? At what point does risk assessment, which is another way to achieve the non-punitive goal and which reduces ‘bycatch,’ factor in? I don’t know that a Court will ever fall that way. It seems that if even 1 in 100M may recidivate, rational basis holds. I may be wrong, but so it seems. Rational basis = carte blanche for legislatures.

  6. PK

    I’m wondering how this Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision could be applied, or referenced, for similar challenges in other States ie New York.

    • AJ

      I’d contact the attorneys for this case to see if they’re licensed in NY; if they aren’t, perhaps they can recommend someone. Since this was a State, versus Federal, Court, it cannot automatically apply. However, one could probably use it and the other State cases out there, along with Snyder and the USSG’s brief about Snyder, to launch a fairly strong suit.

      • PK

        From a High Profile NY Sex Offender Attorney in NY:
        “… It is of course not mandatory precedent in NY but could still be helpful”


          Sadly the 2nd Circuit already decided the changes weren’t ex post facto and NY falls in the 2nd circuit.

          Maybe now they might re-consider, or the NY State Court of Appeals might see it differently but this is decided case law in NY. 🙁

        • AJ

          NY, like FL, seems to be a very stubborn state when it comes to RC cases. It seems the only hope is for Federal action. On one hand, it’s a shame that it’s already been through the 2nd Court of Appeals, as getting another case heard could be quite difficult. But on the other hand, the opinion from the 2nd only strengthens the argument for SCOTUS to take Snyder–they need to settle the conflicts among the Federal Courts.

          Were it me, I would stay in touch with that NY attorney and see what s/he thinks about taking a case forward. My personal opinion is few new “big” cases will be taken on by attorneys, instead awaiting a Snyder outcome. Instead, the cases currently in the pipelines will work their way out and then be either affirmed or overturned based on what happens with Snyder. That said, the handful of cases against cities and such will probably continue, using the current tide that’s in our favor to push a little further.

        • PK

          Yes definitely she’s on retainer!


          Hello PK i’d love the chance to chat with you about a few things. If you want email the moderator and ask them for my email, I believe I might of emailed you in the past but I’ve had a few Computer issues and lost a lot of stuff in a move about a year ago.

  7. AJ

    “It’s likely that many will seek to return to a 10-year registration period.” I know this quote came from someone on our side, but it’s still a pretty dumb statement. Let’s see, I can either have a 10-year period, or at least 5 more years, if not lifetime. Hmmm….I’ll have to think about trying to return to the 10-year period.

    “Part of the Supreme Court’s decision was that the registration requirement constitutes a form of punishment.” Did I miss this in the Opinion? It makes it sound as though just requiring registration is punishment…which would seem contrary to Smith. Or is this perhaps a PA-specific aspect? I’m feeling too lazy to re-read the Opinion right now, but probably will just to settle this item in my own mind.

    Given the PA SC has already ruled, I sure hope the State Police have taken down the information and pictures those affected. They could certainly be given a few days to get it done, but the clock is ticking on further lawsuits for those left on the registry who shouldn’t be, I would think–likewise the 3rd Party sites that like to push this information. But, I’m guessing the State will claim they have to go through all the data to ensure nobody gets dropped, because they have to ensure the proper dates are used. Such is total BS, since they already have all the data computerized, but that sort of bureaucratic delay tactic will not surprise me one bit.

  8. And the plot thickens in Cumberland County PA

    Cumberland County DA there is going to request SCOTUS review…..very interesting

  9. who removes from list

    My husband wanted to allow you know his today’s research.


    The Pa Supreme Court Applied Muniz Decision because is it now LAW! – PA SUPREME COURT, says ITS LAW AND APPLIES TO OTHERS!

    Read this Leroy Spann decision. Even though its a concurring statement, it says they still have to applied Muniz Decision even though they dont agree! 2017%22

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