Reporting requirements for Pennsylvania sex offenders will change in December. The changes will bring Pennsylvania's laws in line with the federal Adam Walsh Act and make more crimes subject to Megan's Law reporting, according to the Altoona Mirror.
Right now in Pennsylvania, if you're a 13-year-old girl and you get touched in an illegal way by a 40-year-old man, it's not a Megan's Law violation. That will change come Dec. 20 when the new state law takes effect.
Under the new law, offenses such as indecent assault, sexual corruption of minors and statutory sexual assault - which once didn't carry a sexual offender's registration requirement - now will.
Defense attorney Thomas Dickey said he anticipates clients in this predicament coming to him after they learn of the changes and admitted there would be few avenues to fight the law's retroactive component.
"You still have to be serving your sentence," Dickey told the Mirror. "Now these guys are going to have to register and they're like, 'Not only was I told by my lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge I wouldn't have to register, now you're saying I will after Dec. 20?'"
"I think there's going to be a significant increase in jury trials in Blair County," defense attorney Joel Peppetti told the Mirror.
He said because the new law has expanded the list of offenses, it diminishes the likelihood a deal can be brokered that avoids the registration requirement.
"I think when almost every offense is either a 15-year, 20-year or lifetime registration, then it takes a lot of discretion away from the DA's office," Peppetti said. For clients, he said, the registration requirement is a major sticking point to any plea deal.
"It's huge," Peppetti said. "It's always a major concern and it's a huge consideration. There are severe penalties for violating Megan's Law requirements."
Lt. Todd Harman, who heads the Pennsylvania State Police Megan's Law Unit, said the law will mean more work for the state police. He said 25 civilians and four state troopers have been added to the staff in anticipation of the changes. Most significantly, state police will see the biggest change in verifying addresses of those who are registered.
Harman said as of now, 90 percent of the roughly 12,000 registered sex offenders in the state come in only once a year to verify their addresses. With the new law, 80 percent of those who now come in once a year will have to check in four times a year, once every quarter.
A significant loophole closed by the change to the law focuses on transient and homeless sex offenders as well as out-of-state offenders, Harman said. Those changes took effect in February and now give the state the necessary legal authority to force homeless or transient sex offenders to register.
"They've labeled a new type of sex offender as transient," Harman told the Mirror. "They have to come in once every month to verify."
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