With a criminal conviction comes an array of disqualifications and repercussions that can be burdensome to people who plan on assimilating into society as productive citizens. These collateral consequences are experienced as a hindrance to any progression that convicted persons - whether it be a felony or misdemeanor charges - anticipate to experience. Employment and business opportunities are adversely affected, and access to government benefits, like student loans, housing and contracting are denied.
The impact of these collateral consequences are manifolded tenfold for individuals who were convicted and legally penalized for sex crimes. The fierce stigmatization of sex offenses in modern society has made leading a comfortable post-conviction life challenging in every aspect. Once a convicted person is branded as a “sex offender,” every shred of privacy they once had is gone. Personal information, such as your name, address, details about your conviction and more are plastered onto a widely accessible, and frequently navigated sex offender registry.
If you have been charged with a sex crime that could land you on the sex offender registry, the first step you should take is to retain a criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney is equipped to help you avoid the harsh reality of what it means to be a sex offender in Pennsylvania. Your second step would be to gain an all-inclusive understanding of the state's method of deterring sex crimes. For the purposes of this article, we will address (1) Pennsylvania's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and its significance to offenders, (2) the state's registry tier classifications (3) and the “failure to register law.
Megan's Law / Sorna (42 Pa.C.S § 9799.32(1))
Each state in the nation has adapted legislative regulations that require individuals convicted of certain sex crimes to join a statewide registry, commonly referred to as Megan's Law. Pennsylvania's version of this law is known as SORNA. SORNA upholds basic standards for the state to follow when applying sex offender registry legislation.
Through the Pennsylvania State Police, the state agency that updates and maintains the registry, the whereabouts of convicted persons are tracked and posted for the people in their communities to access. This effort is made in an attempt to safeguard to public from being victimized by adult and juvenile sexual offenders. Consequently, SORNA severely limits the freedom of registered sex offenders in the state.
As indicated above, relaying personal identifying information is an obligatory component of registering. Specifically, registrants will be required to disclose a recent picture, their full name and aliases, a residential address, their license plate and registration numbers, name and addresses of workplaces or school, their email address and any other internet usernames and identities.
Individuals who fail to report changes to authorities, who don't appear in person at scheduled verification sites, or fail to register will face additional criminal charges.
Failure to Register (18 Pa. C.S. § 4915)
SORNA obliges the state of Pennsylvania to establish and impose criminal penalties upon individuals who fail to comply with registration requirements.
According to state law, the failure to meet registration requirements is against the law if said person knowingly fails to either:
- Register with the Pennsylvania State Police
- Verify his or her address or refuses to be photographed
- Provide accurate information throughout the duration of the registration process
The penalties imposed for failing to register are determined by the individualized circumstances of your case. The courts will assess factors like the severity of your original conviction and the number of years you're obligated to remain on the sexual offender registry to carry out the penalties of either a first, second or third-degree felony.
People who are convicted of this offense can expect to spend at least one year in prison. However, the maximum sentence for not registering can have detrimental consequences for people charged with this crime. Upon conviction, a person may be subject to a lifetime imprisonment and a hefty $25,000 fine.
The shame and humiliation that accompanies registering oftentimes compel people to attempt to “game the system.” However, Pennsylvania has ensured that doing so is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. When an alleged sex offender fails to register or comply with the requirements, SORNA orders the jurisdiction in which he or she intends resides, goes to school, or works to report their whereabouts to the authorities.
Registry Tier Classifications
In Pennsylvania, offenses with a requisite that requires registration will be categorized into three categories, known as “tiers.” The tier a crime is attached to will dictate just how long an offender's name will remain on the state registry. Here is a brief overview of the tier classifications in the state as of now:
Tier I Sexual Offenses: 15 Year Registration
The following crimes shall classify an individual as a Tier I offender:
- False imprisonment
- Unlawful restraint
- Indecent assault
- Coercion and enticement
- Invasion of privacy
- Luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure
- Video voyeurism etc.
Tier II sexual Offenses: 25 Year Registration
The following crimes shall classify an individual as a Tier II offender:
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Unlawful contact with a minor
- Indecent assault
- Sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion
- Buying or selling children
- The production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation etc.
Tier III Sexual Offenses: Lifetime Registration
- Indecent assault (if the victim is under 13)
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse etc.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
Upon conviction of a sex crime, individuals have reported having no less than a humiliating experience. It's important you understand that the legal and collateral repercussions you will face as a result of this conviction are unrelenting. If you have been arrested and charged with a sex offense that will require the placement of your name on the state's sexual offender registry, your first and immediate step should be to retain an attorney. With all that is at stake, you can't afford to skip out on consulting legal counsel.
Skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping clients who have acquired misdemeanor and felony sex crimes prevail in court, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today for assistance.