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PA: Another Blow to SORNA I with Failure to Register Conviction Relief

Source: 12/28/21

December 22, 2021 has seen the release of many case opinions from the PA Supreme Court (SCOPA) with Commonwealth v. David Santana being the biggest win for our advocacy efforts. In a 5-2 decision, SCOPA affirmed the Superior Court’s opinion that “Mr. Santana’s registration requirement under SORNA was an after-the-fact punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. Accordingly, he had no duty to comply with those requirements and his conviction for ignoring them, under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4915.1(a)(3) [failure to provide accurate information], was a manifest injustice and must be overturned,” Commonwealth v. Santana, 241 A.3d 670, 662 (Pa. Super. 2020) (en banc).

Mr. Santana committed his offense in 1983 in New York. He had to register with New York’s “Sex Offender Registration Act” (“SORA”) when it became effective in January of 1996. Pennsylvania’s “Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act” (“SORNA”) took effect December of 2012. Mr. Santana moved to PA in 2015. He initially registered with the Pennsylvania State Police and continued his duty register in-person but did not register his phone numbers, job, and social media account. For that, he was arrested and charged with failure to provide accurate information.

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The Keystone State coming through again with logical legal thinking. @AJ keeps mentioning Calder v Bull as a vehicle to use for reviewing the line of thinking this gent took on.

SCOTUS should really open their aperture and then their minds on this topic to realize they’re in the wrong when it comes to making exceptions to this idea of ex post facto being acceptable for those who have a sex offense conviction and still forced to register. Making exceptions to a basic concept (as has been done way too much in our country’s legal history) really does not bode well for a solid legal foundation when the courts can pick and choose applicability.

Knowing this, as with the others in the line of cases on this topic area, I’d not be surprised if the Commonwealth decided to apply for SCOTUS review of this case knowing what SCOTUS thinks on this topic.

Exceptions, yes, too many too often so the courts get whatever they want. I had a CP charge and my lawyer filed a motion that the LEA did not follow proper guidelines and timelines in monitoring and getting a subpoena for what was on my computer. The judge nonchalantly dismissed it by saying, “Well, it was all done in good faith.” in other words if they get a conviction by illegal means then it is fine, an acceptable exception to the written law.

Actually, of late I’ve been more on the Chastleton v. Sinclair Corp. drum than the Calder v. Bull one. Regardless, thanks for the shout-out!

You’re welcome @AJ. Good to see you chime in.

@AJ – I read all of your posts and have hold your opinion in high regard, as most on here do. Much respect sir.

With that said, I read your post above and did a little reading on the Charleston v. Sinclair Corp. case and opinion. Are you focusing on the the current facts that PFR’s are not in fact more likely to commit additional crimes and the evidence to support vs the legislatures statement?

We repeat what was stated in Block v. Hirsh256 U.S. 135, 154, as to the respect due to a declaration of this kind by the legislature so far as it relates to present facts. But even as to them a Court is not at liberty to shut its eyes to an obvious mistake, when the validity of the law depends upon the truth of what is declared. 256 U.S. 154. Chas. Wolff Packing Co. v. Court of Industrial Relations262 U.S. 522, 536. And still more obviously so far as this declaration looks to the future it can be no more than prophecy and is liable to be controlled by events. A law depending upon the existence of an emergency or other certain state of facts to uphold it may cease to operate if the emergency ceases or the facts change even though  valid when passed. Perrin v. United States232 U.S. 478, 486, 487Missouri v. Chicago, Burlington Quincy R.R. Co.241 U.S. 533, 539, 540. In Newton v. Consolidated Gas Co.258 U.S. 165, a statutory rate that had been sustained for earlier years in Willcoxv. Consolidated Gas Co.212 U.S. 19, was held confiscatory for 1918 and 1919.

While a declaration by a legislature concerning public conditions is entitled to at least great respect, yet it may not be held conclusive by the courts when the facts in the record show contrary conditions to exist. See Shoemaker v. United States147 U.S. 282Hairston v. Danville Western Ry. Co.208 U.S. 598Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co.211 U.S. 210Producers Transp. Co. v. Railroad Comm.251 U.S. 228Block v. Hirsh256 U.S. 135Mugler v. Kansas123 U.S. 661Buchanan v. Warley245 U.S. 60
There being no emergency, enforcement of the act becomes violative of the Fifth Amendment. Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Nebraska164 U.S. 403Wilkinsonv. Leland, 2 Pet. 627; Monongahela Nav. Co. v. United States148 U.S. 312Ochoav. Hernandez230 U.S. 139Adkins v. Children’s Hospital261 U.S. 525Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon260 U.S. 393.

Just curious on your thoughts.

Thank you!

Thank you for the kind words and thoughts. I do appreciate them.

While not focusing on the statements by legislatures, it does play into the whole thing and yes, it’s about saying, “wait a minute, there’s evidence that whatever were (deemed to be) the facts in 2003 no longer exist (if they ever did!).”

My thoughts on Chastleton v. Sinclair Corp. are rooted in what you have highlighted in your quoted text. Specifically, I have long advocated taking SCOTUS’ flawed “frightening and high” position and use it to our favor. I envision saying something to a court along the lines of, “assuming arguendo the risk of recidivism was ‘frightening and high’ when Smith was decided, decades of governmental and academic research consistently and repeatedly reveal this is not presently the case, nor has it been for some time. Furthermore, any recidivism risk has been consistently shown to decrease with time offense-free and with one’s physical age.” I would then go on to cite how Chastleton directs a court to reassess the law given the facts have changed. (We all know they haven’t changed but that’s a fruitless pursuit and argument, IMHO.)

Chastleton is still valid case law, even though only occasionally cited. Last I looked, the 1st CCoA was the last court of note to use it. It seems to be tried most often regarding health-care issues, such as with doctors and hospitals. IDK what outcome one could expect; I simply see this precedent as a way to compel a court (the Court?) to re-examine Smith and its many and varied progeny. I’m still amazed ACLU-MI convinced the courts to look at the data, versus simply regurgitating the SCOTUS falsehoods.

Many months back I posted a much clearer “rant” about this on FAC but I have yet to find it. (FAC doesn’t seem to have any manner of archive searching available.)

Aha! I found the FAC post I made–only about 9 months earlier than I recalled…

Anyway, here’s my post from over there from Dec 22, 2020 (FAC URL is

I’ve long wondered why no one has ever included the Changed Circumstances Doctrine from US v Carolene Products (and Chastleton v. Sinclair). Carolene is the beast that created Rational Basis analysis but it’s also where SCOTUS reiterated that changed circumstances require judicial review and possible striking of a previously constitutional law.

From Carolene: ” [T]he constitutionality of a statute predicated upon the existence of a particular state of facts may be challenged by showing . . . that those facts have ceased to exist.” (citing Chastleton Corp. v. Sinclair, 264 U.S. 543, 44 S.Ct. 405, 68 L.Ed. 841 (1924)).

As well, in Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6, 38 n.68 (1969), SCOTUS said, “[a] statute based upon a legislative declaration of facts is subject to constitutional attack on the ground that the facts no longer exist; in ruling upon such a challenge, a court must, of course, be free to reexamine the factual declaration.

Also, in Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. v. Walters, 294 U.S. 405, 415 (1935), SCOTUS stated, “[a] statute valid when enacted may become invalid by change in the conditions to which it is applied.”

So why can’t one use any/all of these cases to argue that, even assuming arguendo “frightening and high” and “80%” were true when Smith was decided, circumstances now are different. Academic and governmental studies have shown over and over that the “facts” in Smith are incorrect. Arguing they were wrong then seems futile but predicating them correct and then saying, “but they’re not now,” seems like it would have some traction.

I knew there were more cases (Leary v. United States, especially) that was helpful but slipping my mind. The people at FAC were sufficiently pleased with my rationale to be “sharing it with our network of attorneys.” What’s come of it since, I have no idea.

I also posted back then the details of the 1st CCoA’s indirect use of Chastleton. In an April 2020 decision (United States v. Vaello-Madero, 956 F.3d 12, 23 (1st Cir. 2020)), the 1st cited Carolene directly, and thus Chastleton by reference.

(I still lament the loss of, now approaching one year since shutting down. That site gave me more goodies–for free, for some reason–than anything else I have ever used.)

Nice! What stuck out at me while reading Leary was the reference to United States v. Gainey, 380 U. S. 63 (1965.

We held that the Gainey presumption should be tested by the “rational connection” standard announced in Tot. We added:

The process of making the determination of rationality is, by its nature, highly empirical, and in matters not within specialized judicial competence or completely commonplace, significant weight should be accorded the capacity of Congress to amass the stuff of actual experience and cull conclusions from it.” 380 U. S., at 67.

The upshot of Tot, Gainey, and Romano is, we think, that a criminal statutory presumption must be regarded as “irrational” or “arbitrary,” and hence unconstitutional, unless it can at least be said with substantial assurance that the presumed fact is more likely than not to flow from the proved fact on which it is made to depend.[64] 

Of course, it must be kept in mind that “significant weight should be accorded the capacity of Congress to amass the stuff of actual experience and cull conclusions from it.” Ibid. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the legislative record does not supply an adequate basis upon which to judge the soundness of the “knowledge” part of the presumption. We have therefore taken other materials into account as well, in an effort to sustain the presumption. In so doing, we have not confined ourselves to data available at the time the presumption was enacted in 1956, but have also considered more recent information, in order both to obtain a broader general background and to ascertain whether the intervening years have witnessed significant changes which might bear upon the presumption’s validity.[68]

Very interesting AJ. Gainey will be my next read!

I just finished reading the Court’s opinion, and it was very well thought out and followed the law to the letter.
Great decision.

I agree – a clear, precise opinion (no prevarication)!
Way to go, Penn Supreme!! 🤗👍🏻👏🏻

Last edited 23 days ago by David⚜️

You know I have to agree with TS and some others and also this article. Yes much of this registry is like a brand new territory for many. Sure I came from a small town in W,VA and yes I am in the Shenandoah Valley of VA. Sure even grandparents lived in a Ti-state area of Huntington, W,VA course that was many years ago. Cross the Ohio River and your in another State. Other way is KY/ I can see why this registry is of an interest to ACSOL. Yes each state seems to have their own laws but this Sex registry is in many ways vain and unjust and multi irrational in many ways.

One could even look up compulsory damage vs Carnal damages and yes inducement is a factor. To say I haven’t been in trouble I would be lying but their is a reason and even a reason why I took criminal Justice and many times its to understand one’s self or to futher to aspire as a lawyer like Janice or even any other type of occupation.

Sure we all go thru ups and downs in life. Even getting a clemency is a bit of a task. Even a pardon is sometimes a headache for many. While different states have different laws truth is always better than fiction.Hope this helps. While my dad use to be a CPA he hated to go to court for some company’s’ tax return. I’m just glad to see many advocates against this registry and having a bit of source to fall back on to help your neighbor out.

Hopefully the (smart website will get updated with Pennsylvania information, and Tennessee information concerning ex post facto?

Dr. statements are always good if they are positive. Now I know many of you all are distraught about this registry. Believe it or not I am also in many ways. [Moderator’s edit]

See presenting a good case to a court is very important. Much of this registry is a bit tainted with trapping & snares.but still we are human and as the bible says all have sinned and came short. While state and government pose to do the right thing they error on many levels of this registry and even Chance and Janice and the team can tell you that one.

And yes if we all have to go to D.C. as Janice and the team planning we’ll do it all of us whether some are off of this registry or not. Showing support for right causes are good in many issues so at times we shouldn’t worry and yes when my dad was living he told me I can’t always get you out of jail as I may not be around. Dad was born in 1900 in the back country of Ohio, and yes he worked at a bank after gradation & during the depression. At times we all have a lot of growing up to do yet we all look to be free of this registry and its not only for ourselves its for others we all have to think about.

Saddles hear you pn every other Sat w/ Alex Group, i think you did a GREAT Reinder…
“And yes if we all have to go to D.C. as Janice and the team planning we’ll do it all of us whether some are off of this registry or not. Showing support for right causes are good in many issues so at times we shouldn’t worry”.
We A L L need to go, action in numbers via visibility.
2023, Let’s GO !

Maybe this will help?

The government of the United States of America is currently failing to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. The government is accepting evil, even loving evil. Lady Justice is lifting the blindfold so that one eye can see who is being accused, and then she often fails to render justice. There is one standard of justice for the politically connected, powerful and wealthy, and another standard of law for everyone else. Judges 21:25 describes our nation.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25

You know it blows my mind that no one in CA has attempted to challenge the registry that I know of in a long time, and the last one that did way back won. Can anyone provide CA case law based on the CA constitution where the registry as whole was challenged or in piece meal? I took the next semester and next summer off college just so I can file my own case challenging the inclusion on the registry without individual dynamic risk assessments as well as privacy, safety and arbitrary grounds and would like any help with case law I can get. I find nothing in the CA SC cases addressing any of this.

If inclusion in a registry were dependent on dynamic risk assessment, then DUI convicts would be the first to be on it. Then a whole bunch of other criminals, many before current registrants. That is supported by research all day long.

I think it is a mistake to accept the 290 registry and try to massage it. It is polishing a turd. It will always be a turd. I had high hopes that CARSOL / ACSOL would challenge the registry, the existence of the registry. A long shot, sure. Time consuming, absolutely. It probably requires overturning Doe v Smith. Incredibly difficult? No doubt. But like you say, nothing has happened along those lines. Not even one step. In the past 10 years. I find that disappointing.

It is my hope that you rethink risk assessment within the premise of the registry and go for the jugular. You may or may not remember, that was hardly my view many years ago. But this is now. It is my understanding that you have nothing to lose. Go for it!

But your suit, your approach. My opinion.

DPH you are exactly right We all need to go. Riding over to Charlottesville here in VA as my sister wanted to exchange some things at Belk today, and I had to go to Staples myself. I asked her what was the biggest thing being protested in Huntington, WV at Marshall U. in the mid 70 when she went their and she said The War in Vietnam and many of those guys shouldn’t been there and getting killed in something like that.
Got to look at the registry this way. Is government still abusing or killing. Legally or not.  Is this register compounding many in all various ways. One has to remember Forgiveness is bless and that also says a lot about today.

 Sure you might say but this is different. Look at this way. It this setting up someone verses or someone taking advantage of another. Thats government in many ways. So whats worse boys getting killed in battle that weren’t even suppose to be NAM or is mankind killing and/or man for some sexual type of grading in a Tier classification. Excuse me Bill Gannon.. just doing my job ma’am.

While verbal abuse may be bad enough would a gal coning another about age even be worse. One could also talk about say incestral relationships but just go to your American History books and that will tell you all you need to know or even go to the bible but their is a limit to everything. The history of PA is interesting also. Undue and overdue punishment their is a limit and government needs to know they can’t play God to correct and serve but many times this registry is a bit blind and vain in the Justice Dept and at the same time very abusive in this government angle.

2023 can’t come soon enough . Time for registrants to make plans to come to Washington showing strength in numbers with a unified message. Janice can retire within ten years and be a hero to what was Registered Nation. If I lived closer to Washington I’d offer a bed, but if I was traveling from another region I’d stay in Washington. Let’s Go Registrants!!

This article is interesting, but I’m still confused. My conviction was in the year 2000 and I was forced to register as a tier III. If I moved to Pa, what laws would I have to follow?

If you move to PA, you must follow the registration laws of PA.

I guess I would contact the Pa aclu

@The Truth,

PA has two sets of registry laws. One set is for offenses committed prior to 2012 and one set for after 2012.

If you move to PA and we’re convicted in 2000, you would need to follow the pre-2012 law based on this ruling. Whether you would have to register or not there for an offense committed in 2000 depends on the particulars of your offense. Many pre 2012 offenses were 10 year registration periods but not all of them were.

Whether or not federal SORNA changes that go into effect Jan 7th might affect your duty to attempt register there – and if they would accept the registration – despite it not being a state requirement to register remains to be seen. I’m thinking the ruling would protect you from this but maybe not if you ever travel out of the state later.

You should probably contact a lawyer in PA to discuss your specific situation before moving there as probably waiting to see what happens with the new federal SORNA requirements.

Right now the grass might be greener in Pa, but it could have crabgrass later on. I’d wait to see what Pennsylvania does with the new regulations. At least reach out to the advocacy group in Pa.

Well, I was an out of state offense in 1997, was never required to register, moved to Pa in 1999, was released from 3 years probation completed successfully, after living in Pa for 3 years, I was contacted by detectives telling me to register asap, I was a 10 year and was supposed to be released in 2012 but, the new law went into effect and I was stuck on the the list until the Munez decision came down, was released in 18, so 15 years on the hate list, they tried to use act 10 to keep me on for life but, my offense in the other state was equal to Pa laws so, they weren’t able to keep me on it, Tier lll is an svp in Pa I believe, could be wrong but, depends on what your offense was, I know people with svp that weren’t let off the list after the Munez decision, that could be different for you though. All I can say is, if you contact an attorney, be extremely cautious and aware, there are predatory attorneys out there that will take your money and do absolutely nothing for you, and you can’t do anything about it, they won’t give your money back, as I found, ended up shilling out over 500 or so when I caught onto his scheme and fired him, I ended up getting a good one after that, look for attorneys in west Chester or, look for the ones winning cases like Munez and others, may be pricey but, they’re not going to scam you.

This goes to a question I’ve had for some time. I believe I’ve even posed it here once or twice. How can a State (PA, in this case) apply something that’s been deemed punitive to someone for an offense committed outside that State’s jurisdiction?

The Ex Post Facto argument that has gone on within PA is relies on whether the current law(s) are punitive. They have been found to be so, or else there would be no Ex Post Facto violation. Since they are punitive, it seems to me that applying them to out-of-state persons would be unconstitutional. That it applies to offenders committing acts after passage is of no consequence; it’s merely additional punishment given.

I hope I’m clear on what I wrote. I don’t feel I am, TBH.


Truth- I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I was caught up for drunk driving in VA. I said to myself their goes my driver as I had already had two in WV. The lawyer at the time told us that they don’t consider WV law or what you did in another state.

Yes, I have been to PA an its capital and they believe in common truth and also second chances. Sure we know the registry is all over the Nation but its the truth that will set a person free. I don’t even believe in this lifetime supervision or this chaperone ordeals in a lot of ways but I would write before planning to relocate to get the basics. Even ACLU can help on that one or Janice or Chance.. Yes many of you on here have already did your time probation or otherwise in my opinion.

See law is good if it doesn’t go overboard but many times it does I’m afraid to say.

Has anyone tried suing the boards who make up things such as the tiers or why someone is dangerous without no real proof? After all , their justification is everyone is High Risk due to posing a substantial risk of re-offending, but where is the proof? Why arent they forced to show registrants pose a greter chance to reoffend than anyone else, so why are we singled out so easily? My conviction was over 20 years ago and I’ve been out with supervision for 14 years, why isn’t that proof I’m not going to break the law? Why is it no matte4 what, we’re dangerous, and if we do the right thing, where just dangerous looking for a time to strike? All a prosecutor could say to show im dangerous is a decades old charge and nothing else. I really do believe the constitution today is about as good as toilet paper…….

Stop making sense! Can’t you see the emperor’s new clothes? They are awesome.

But better than what you said, how about the scumbags prove that their magic Registries do anything useful? Let them try to prove that nonsense.

And if they are so useful, where are the rest of the magic Registries? It is outrageous that where I live, big government is releasing violent, career criminals from prison TODAY and those people are not listed on any magic Registry.

Registries are not for people with brains. They are to placate the utterly stupid mob that has infested Amerika like dumb, helpless cockroaches. Look at the recent years. Does anyone need further proof of what Amerika is?

There is a case in PA that is making the exact argument that you’re mentioning about High Risk. The case is Commonwealth v. Torsilieri. Here’s the link to PARSOL’s article on the case: commonwealth of pa v torsilieri sorna scientific evidentiary showdown

Thanks. I see part of my original message was also messed up. What I meant to say was my conviction is over 20 years old and ive been out 14 years WITHOUT any sort of supervision, other than having to register. I’m also married with children of my own and have had zero interactions with police other than the registering. They SHOULD have to prove im dangerous, just labeling me or others for life is definitely unjust.

 Will Allan and truth an many caught up in this registry. One has to try to understand all the viewpoints of these issues. Sure In live in a commonwealth state. an I was happy in WV. My father had pass away.  

Mother’s parents had passed away and since I had a sister in VA, she decided to move us over to that area. I can understand your views on much of this registry as well as many on Janice’s forum. Sure dad was a CPA and yes they had good education back in the early 19 hundred’s when he was growing up. He didn’t even go to college. Guess that is why my grandparents wanted me to get a good education .  Yes this registry is tough and I myself don’t even understand commonwealth law that much but you too and others on here make very good sense. 

In many ways you have to look at this registry as blind justice with all the brass tactic’s and even with this invent of computers it can and will make it more unbearable but where is the Truth for that matter. My biggest complaint about this registry is many things about can get blown out of proportion. 

Job discrimination, whether one can have use to a computer, leg monitoring, living and being around kids or even being black balled by much of this. Yes I am impressed that many on the registry have gotten employment or try to shrug this registry ordeal off in some form and we all should be glad that ACSOL and many others have wanted to take up this challenge for us. 

Law is only as good as the principal and sure probation or parole is tough but when principals and common law justice is comprehended than that’s when constitutional law steps in. I will also try to shorten my posts this coming year also.   

Ive always had employment since I got out, and went school for a degree. Yes, I was told many times I was the best thing since sliced bread, but after the background check (they started showing if one is on the registry) I would always lose the job. Ive even received offer letters only for them to come back and say “we didnt know you were on the registry, whay didnt you tell us?” (Sounds exactly like discrimination, especially since they didnt ask). As bad as all of this is, what makes it worse is the countless lawyer websites offering help for people on the registry or facing being put on it. They say things like, youlll be turned into a outcast, you will be discriminated in employment, you will possibly face harassment from the police and neighbors, etc. The fact they actually put that stuff down, how can this be anything BUT punishment? This seriously reminds me of seperate but equal, and other racist nonsense that’s happened in this country’s history. They’ve only found another group to project hate to…..

Here is a link to some additional information about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, including links to the two dissenting justices’ opinions:

Commonwealth v. Santana (Pa. 2021)

Is Santana still required to register in PA for his 1983 conviction in NY?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x