Megan’s Law, less commonly known as the Sexual Offender (Jacob Wetterling) Act of 1994, is a federal law requiring all states to make information about certain sex offenders available to the public. This is accomplished primarily through the Sex Offender Registry, which exists in every state and can be accessed through the internet. While all states have registries, all registries aren’t the same. On the contrary, each state has its own body of laws pertaining to registerable offenses, requirements for registrants, and other factors. In this article, child pornography defense lawyer Lloyd Long will explain when out-of-state offenders must register in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, the body of statutes collectively known as Megan’s Law can be found at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9799.10 et seq. Individuals must register for convictions of sex offenses including but not limited to:
For more detailed information on this topic, please refer to our article about which offenses require registration in Pennsylvania.
If a convicted offender fails to comply with Pennsylvania’s registration requirements, he or she is committing a third or second degree felony and may thus be subject to penalties including a maximum fine of $15,000 and a maximum prison sentence of seven years, or a maximum fine of $25,000 and a maximum sentence of 10 years, respectively. Needless to say, these harsh penalties give offenders tremendous incentive to comply with the state’s registration laws.
Yet it isn’t only Pennsylvania residents who are required to register – the law also extends to non-residents who were simply convicted in Pennsylvania, regardless of where they reside, provided they (1) either work or go to school in Pennsylvania, and (2) were convicted of a sexually violent offense. A sexually violent predator is defined as a person who “has been determined by the Court, after evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.”
The law also extends to:
Out-of-state offenders are required to register for the period of time determined by the “Tier” associated with the offense of which they were convicted. (For instance, rape is Tier III offense, while voyeurism is a Tier I offense).
Tier I offenses require 15 years of registration, Tier II offenses require 25 years of registration, and Tier III offenses require permanent registration for the duration of the offender’s lifetime. Likewise, Tier I offenders must appear at a “registration/verification site” once per year, while Tier II offenders must appear twice per year and Tier III offenders must appear four times per year. Transient offenders must appear every single month, regardless of which Tier is associated with their offense.
If an out-of-state individual’s offense does not have a specified classification, then he or she “shall be a Tier I offender and register for the length of time required by the other jurisdiction.”
Offenders who are also Pennsylvania residents must register immediately upon receiving a sentence. Out-of-state offenders have a little extra time, but must register within three business days of either:
If the offender’s living situation and/or employment/student status changes, he or she must go to a registration/verification site to update the information with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP). Once again, offenders have three business days to make the necessary changes.
The PSP, which is responsible for maintaining an accurate database of registrants, “will then notify the state agency charged with maintaining the… registry in the state [where] the registered sexual offender now resides.” However, convicted non-resident offenders are still responsible for registering at home, in accordance with the laws of the state where they reside.
Just to reiterate, failure to appear at a registration/verification site within the three-day time period (or at any other time required by law) can result in additional criminal charges – and in turn, additional criminal penalties. Nothing excuses convicted offenders from fulfilling Megan’s Law requirements – not even floods and tornadoes. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9799.25 provides that “the occurrence of a natural disaster or other event requiring evacuation of residences shall not relieve the sexual offender of the duty to register or any other duty imposed by this subchapter.”
If you’ve been charged with sex crimes in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced sexual offense defense lawyer to fight the allegations and protect your legal rights. To schedule a free, private case evaluation with the criminal attorneys of the law offices of Lloyd Long, call our law offices any time at (215) 302-0171.