Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Legislature Will Try to Fix Sex Offender Registration Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Legislature Will Try to Fix Sex Offender Registration Law

Article excerpt

A bill introduced this week in Harrisburg attempts to fix flaws in the state's sex offender registration system identified in a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in July and could affect more than 10,000 registrants.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, called it "imperative" to amend the law.

"We have worked hard to come up with a fix that will do just that and are expediting this fix," Mr. Marsico said.

On Tuesday, the legislation cleared the House Judiciary Committee, of which Mr. Marsico is chairman, and could go to the floor for a vote by the full House as soon as next week.

Karen Dalton, a committee attorney who helped draft the legislation, said that without action, more than 10,000 sex offenders sentenced before the state's registration law took effect Dec. 20, 2012, would have to come off the registry.

That would mean victims of those who have been deemed sexually violent predators would no longer get notice of changes in their circumstance, such as where they live or work or what type of car they drive.

The case that spurred the need for legislation involved Jose Muniz, who was found guilty in Cumberland County in 2007 of indecent assault. Under what was then Megan's Law, he would have had to register as a sex offender for 10 years. But Muniz failed to appear at his sentencing. When he was apprehended in 2014, Megan's Law had been replaced by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which called for a lifetime registration.

Muniz challenged the registration as unconstitutional because he said it increased punishment after the fact.

The state Supreme Court agreed, finding that SORNA's registration requirements were punitive. But the decision provided no guidance, causing upheaval in the criminal justice system, as neither prosecutors nor the Pennsylvania State Police, who administer the registration program, knew how to address the court's concerns. …

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