The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a bill Monday.
Nearly eight years ago, Bucks County resident Steve Gordon left state prison after completing a 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting a woman, but he was not quite a free man.
His conviction for aggravated indecent sexual assault meant that Pennsylvania State Police would be keeping tabs on him for another decade.
A little more than five years ago, though, Gordon, now 71, suddenly had state police monitoring him for the rest of his life, after state lawmakers replaced the previous Megan’s Law with a new tougher federal version.
The new law, known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, expanded and reclassified crimes requiring sex offender registration that was applied retroactively. It added an estimated 2,000 individuals to the sex offender registry and for roughly 4,500 ex-offenders, like Gordon, turned a 10-year registration into a lifetime obligation.
Then, last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Adam Walsh Act cannot be applied to individuals convicted before the law took effect on Dec. 20, 2012. But the high court did not provide any guidance for how the decision should be applied or what happens to the offenders retroactively added to the registry.
Now Pennsylvania lawmakers have proposed another overhaul of the sex offender law to prevent thousands of the roughly 22,000 ex-sex offenders currently on the Megan’s Law registry from being removed, including roughly half of the 500 Megan’s Law offenders in Bucks County. House lawmakers unanimously passed the bill in December and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on it Monday.
The proposed legislation would turn back the clock for ex-offenders convicted before the 2012 law took effect, but still require they finish any original registration obligation under the old version of Megan’s Law, which was either 10 years or a lifetime. The bill also would loosen some burdensome requirements including giving offenders with lifetime registration obligations the ability to get off the registry.