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PA: Court Determines Annual Registration, Internet Publication Punishment

[ACSOL]

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued an important decision on May 11, 2020, in which it determined that annual registration as well as publication of a registrant’s personal information on the internet constitutes punishment.  The petition in this case committed a sex offense prior to the effective date of these requirements.

According to the Court, annual in-person registration “imposes affirmative restraints and probation-like conditions.”  The Court determined that the annual registration requirement was excessive.  The Court also ruled that the state law requiring the posting a registrant’s personal information on a public lawsuit was punitive because  “the Internet dissemination provision resembles history shaming punishments.”  The Court also noted that Internet dissemination was “excessive in relation to the assigned purposes of protecting the public in the immediate vicinity where the offender resides.”

“The judges in this case are to be commended for their ability to clearly see that the registration requirements at issue in this case constitute punishment,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci.  “It is hoped that judges in other states will follow their example.”

The Court based its decision in part upon the fact that the petitioner in the case offended prior to the state legislature’s passage of the laws at issue.  Specifically, the Court noted that “Petitioner did not have fair warning at the time of commission of the offenses that he would have multifaceted registration requirements for the rest of his life.”

Download a PDF of the decision:

TS v. State of Pennsylvania – registry is punishment – May 2020

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Just read the entire opinion. Most of it strikes as a big “DUHHHH!” but I am a bit concerned/annoyed that many courts continue to rely on legislative intent to keep up the ludicrous idea that the registry isn’t punitive simply because the legislature didn’t intend it to be. To me, that’s like saying the 49ers won the Super Bowl last year because they didn’t intend to lose. Punishment is the imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority—in contexts ranging from child discipline to criminal law—as a response and deterrent to… Read more »

HOOOoooRaaaaay !!!!
One For Our Team !!!

So what does this mean? Supreme Court still has the final say don’t they? And they dubbed it civil and stated it not punishment? What exactly changes? Or is it now officially punishment in Pa. and people can petition to get off of it? Does this do anything legally for those on it in the state? Or is it the same as yesterday, today, and always?

@Brandon

As I read online the PA court structure, this is an intermediate appeals court. There is a Supreme Court of PA so it could be appealed there. However, given the PASC has ruled similarly already on this topic, one would wonder if they would accept this to opine upon to further solidify the findings here and the other related case or deny it. A victory is a victory on this topic…

It’s clear to me the state of PA’s courts are making reasonable decisions and trying to force SCOTUS to revisit the prior decisions…

I agree that court decisions in PA are moving us closer to a new case before the U.S. Supreme Court. So are court decisions in Michigan and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The winning thread in these arguments is that the state’s requirements (PA and MI, for example) are much more restrictive than the requirements in the state of Alaska. The lower courts are then able to appear to issue decisions that are consistent with Smith v. Doe (U.S. Sup Ct 2003) and yet reach a different decision (restrictions are punishment and therefore violate the ex post facto clause).

@Janice

Would you put Millard v Rankin from CO now at the Tenth CCOA in the same light with PA and MI?

@TS – Yes, I see Millard v Rankin in the same light.

Thank you @Janice

Aren’t “we” in some ways victims of our own successes? I would love to see a CCoA or State SC get it “wrong” and have it appealed to SCOTUS. It seems to me every time it’s gotten “right”, such as with PASC (Muniz) and the 6th (Snyder), SCOTUS swats it away. At some point SCOTUS may feel it needs to resolve the splits among the courts but that could take some time…and we need some comparable rulings the “wrong” way (are you listening 5th, 7th and 8th CCoAs?).

I don’t understand how it’s punishment for one group but not another? The final paragraph above is only true on a technicality. I’d challenge a single person who wasn’t already directly working in this field to have known, even now, the full scope of what having to register really brings with it. It’s either punishment or it’s not. Particularly so for people who have COMPLETED their sentence.

🙂 Yet another blow too these unconstitutional regime registries !

@ Dustin and Jermain I have to agree with both of you as intent is 9/10’s of the law. In fact that is basically what I sent Janice in a letter back in Jan or Feb of ths year about my encounter with this internet ordeal. Yes Dustin who know’s the thoughts and intent of a person. Sure winning is good as you mentioned about a football game but their is also interference, fumbling, and other encounters to tackle one. One wonders who is running a foul in many ways. I like your example Dustin, nothing wrong with football and… Read more »

Come on Tenth CCOA, read this one too as we all long await your word (nearly 18 mos later after oral arguments)

Is it reward? No, ok then it must be punishment. Freedom is a reward. Make it contingent on some meaningless and wasteful system and now what good is the freedom? If someone needs to be tracked so badly keep them in jail. If not then let them be. Driving the fear of someone doing something again in the name of public safety is something the coward district attorneys and police and sherrifs and probation officers do to keep cornering the courts and defendants. And they keep playing the victim card to soften their targets, be they Democrat or Republican, they… Read more »

@ Edison look at it this way. Over kill is just as bad as underkill. Yes during my ordeal and when I was going to sex registry treatment classes I got a ticket from the police for speeding a bit over the limit. They said where ya going in such a hurry and I told them I was going to sex registry classes. At least I was honest. And yes when I got to the class I took my seat and about five minutes latter I was called into PO’s office and explained the situation. Talk about behavior science taking… Read more »

Re: your PO’s comment…If you had killed someone, or even an entire family, with or w/out malice, you wouldn’t have an annual registration requirement.
Touch one of them though,
“M O N S T E R !”

Interesting about this petition. predictible offenses. one would even have to question that, and life long parole or probation with these sex offender involvements. If one understands all this right, these men of government are twisting things to condemn one on a lifetime registry. Now that might be Gods law. One wonders today what is profitable for teaching, reproofing, for correction and for training in rightenousness or authoritarianism. Talk about a little or marxism today. One still has to congratulate effort to anyone for standing up to some in this registry endeavor. Talk about sinlessness or authorities being upright and… Read more »

Does this mean I get to cancel my Price Club membership?
[sarcasm]

Change one would even say a get out of jail free card would be good for many on the registry with benefits but governments are slicker than price club (sad in many ways).

So, if it is deemed punishment, can we file for punitive damages to get reimbursed for all those years in a virtual prison?

@Someone The short answer, it depends. If this ruling applies to everybody in Pennsylvania who is impacted such as this person was, then it’s a possibility and one can try to file for punitive damages now that it’s been classified as punishment. That does not mean one would naturally be successful. Would help in such a case the court would agree with the filing for punitive damages based upon the punishment declared. Maybe this person will try it. I would wait until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has had a chance to chop on it if its appeaed to them and… Read more »

@ Someone who cares. Wish it were that simple but its no boardwalk so one has to go with the flow in many of these issues. Right now I’m sure some may be worried about a little insomnia but we all press on.

@TS, via Millar v Rankin, Well you posed the question to Janice and I left her room to reply directly but I’m going to put I my two cents concerning Judge Mastch’s disclosure via opinion. The good judge toward the end of his opinion, and unfortunately his time on this earth, exposed what the surveillance saints are up to. That being domestic electronic surveillance advanced by the ” regulatory ” demand for information data used to track and internet use by individuals. You see the knowledge of internet identifiers gives the computers a target to search for incidents of USE.… Read more »

@Tim in WI

Nicely said.

@Tim in WI. I didn’t know if congress or judges know what incongruous means today in many respects. One wonder if many leaders do. Sure the battlelines are their in many of these registry ordeals. A lot of it seems like a double standard. Sure punitive is wrong but punishment seems to be a bit overshadowed. While one can understand about a saint ex: Simon Templer series. Where does equaltry fall in. One would have to go with what Janice said in many view’s and prospectives. One is just supprised at the differnce of malum in se or malum prohibitum… Read more »

Whether it be the intent to punish individuals when the SORNA Act was passed; we all know the Act was rushed through as a political platform. Judges _must_ hear both sides of the punitive claims, just as they do with any rushed action… (apologies if this is a sensitive example; and just the opposite outcome in comparison) like the Roe v. Wade decisions. Completely religion based and very political. SORNA was a bit of both and then some. My take, to include punitive damages, is that we as American citizens are guaranteed **privacy**. Just recently I read an article about… Read more »

One part of this that I don’t often see addressed is our part in maintaining the registry. Nearly everything on the registry is, in the modern computer age, publicly available information. It certainly is available to law enforcement if they look hard enough. They don’t really need us to come in every so often to update anything. They could get nearly all the data they want by just doing an online search. (Yes, most of it is out there…) My thought is that if the State wants to maintain a database, then they should have to do the work to… Read more »

Worried in, Registration as unconstitutional punishment only implicates ex post folks. The most acute question is: Why deem civil that which is not? Indenture according to the 13th is permitted only after duly had conviction. Given that we are discussing ” gov use of the database machine infrastructure ” under the auspices of public safety, we must consider those other civil uses of the machine infrastructure. Electronic domestic surveillance programs fit squarely within that concept. Except we’ve already witnessed its misuse for political security. First there was the case of David Petraeus, whereby he was caught up disclosing sensitive information… Read more »

@ All. Its about time to graduate, yes I like all these views and comments on here (bare with me for a minute) and yes when I first got involved in a bit of this I really had no idea what I was really getting into but I did have my basics. Yes many of you all have gotten on me in some respect but last night I had to do a double take on this when Larry AZ-WAR made his comment last night on SORNA and Roe vs Wade. I’ve even made some stupid commits on here. Sure AZ… Read more »

I’m sure there a quite a few of us on here before internet passage here in ca which happened in I believe 2002?

I have tried to pop in here to keep up with stuff but haven’t commented in awhile since progress has been slow.

If my past arguments and memory isn’t failing me, doesn’t this being declared punishment now give a green light for challenges to numerous constitutional violations for everyone and not just those with ex post facto issues? Legislature can’t dictate punishment and it can now be challenged as cruel and unusual too. It violates Seperation of Powers.

I miss my old discussions with AJ and Mike R on these topics.

@Chris f: Hey there, Chris. That’s something I’ve been long wondering, and not with just this case. If/Once a ML is determined to be ex post facto, then obviously it’s punishment. The question is, does the legislature’s dictation of what the punishment is to be for commission of a sex offense rise to being a Bill of Attainder, or is it merely their exercising their legislative powers? I say it’s not a BofA because it’s in the statutes *prior* to someone choosing to enter the readily identifiable class of people. Plus, how is it different from their saying anyone who… Read more »

I was sentenced back in 1989 in the state of Pa for a sex offense. There was no such thing as Meghan’s law when I was sentenced. But I am now required to register for life. I can’t even get a decent job because of this and I don’t have the money to fight it. Any suggestions?

“Petitioner committed his crimes in 1990 and, therefore, he had no notice that he would be subject to any registration requirements, let alone a variety of increasing registration requirements, for his lifetime, including dissemination of his personal information on the Internet” This means he didn’t know the consequences of his actions in it’s entirety while he committed the crime, or when he was convicted of his crime, which is a great defense for him and one of the main reasons law retro-activity is unconstitutional. It is also important to note that not only did they find SORNA to be punishment… Read more »

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