Few crimes carry the harsh punishments and social stigma of sex crimes. If you are under investigation or think you may be charged with a sex crime, you are likely anxious, worried, and have many questions. Here are some questions our lawyers are frequently asked.
What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?
The terms “rape” and “sexual assault” are sometimes used interchangeably, but Pennsylvania law differentiates between the two. According to Pennsylvania law, rape is forced, non-consensual, penetration of a body part or orifice, often accomplished through threats of violence or physical restraint. Sexual assault is a much broader crime that may include any nonconsensual, unwanted sexual contact—whether through clothing or skin-to-skin.
When is sexual conduct considered criminal sexual conduct?
Generally speaking, sexual conduct becomes criminal when consent has not been given for sexual touch, either because the offender forces the other person to be sexual against his or her will, or if the other person is incapable of consent. People can be considered incapable of consent if they are minors under the age of fourteen or fifteen. Sex with people who are developmentally disabled and mentally ill may also be considered incapable of meaningful consent. Additionally, someone may also be incapable of consent if they are: temporarily incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol; are unconscious; or are otherwise physically helpless.
What are “Megan's Laws”?
Megan's Laws are named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl from New Jersey. In 1994, she was sexually assaulted and killed by a neighbor who, unbeknownst to her family, had been previously convicted for sex offenses against children.
Therefore, the laws named in her honor establish a registration process that notifies law enforcement agencies about sex offenders within their jurisdictions and, when appropriate, also provides notice to the public. The type of notification is based on an evaluation of the risk posed by a particular offender.
Pennsylvania's version of Megan's Law requires that a person convicted of certain sexual offenses register at regular intervals with state police and local communities. In Pennsylvania, sex offenders are classified by three tiers: Tier I offenders will have to register for 15 years; Tier II offenders will have to register for 25 years; Tier III offenders will have to register for life.
Additionally, the person's photo and any other identifying information are posted on the Megan's Law website, so the public can know where convicted sex offenders live. Sex offenders are required to register with local police and to notify law enforcement authorities when they move to a new location. Failure to register can lead to steep fines and incarceration.
What are the Adam Walsh Act, SORNA, and Act 10 of 2018?
The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law in 2006, in order to expand protection for children and expand penalties for crimes against children. One provision of the law is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, known as “SORNA.” SORNA established a national registry of sex offenders—which, in turn, created a uniform standard for states' registries.
Pennsylvania enacted the Adam Walsh Act in 2011 to comply with this federal mandate; however, in 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that certain provisions of the statute were unconstitutional. In 2018, Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf signed a new version of the statute into law; this is now known as Act 10 of 2018.
What information is on the registry?
Maintained by the Pennsylvania State Police and available to any member of the public, Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registry contains the following information on anyone who lives, works, or studies within the commonwealth, and has been convicted, pled guilty, or been adjudicated as delinquent, of specific sexual crimes:
• Name and any aliases
• Year of birth
• The street address, city, county, and zip code of all residences
• The street address, city, county, and zip code of any institution or location at which the offender is enrolled as a student
• The city, county, and zip code of any employment location
• A photograph of the offender, updated every year
• A written physical description of the offender
• A list identifying any cars, boats, or other vehicles owned or registered by the offender, including vehicle license plate numbers, and the vehicles' primary parking locations
• A description of the offense that led to registration
• The number of years the offender must be in the registry
• The date the registry entry was last updated
• The date of conviction, if available
What is the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website?
Pulling information from sex offender registries across the U.S., the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is run by the Department of Justice. It allows people to search for the names and locations of convicted sex offenders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, and numerous Native American tribal jurisdictions. People can search the national registry by name, jurisdiction, address, zip code, county, or city.
What is a “sexually violent predator” (SVP)?
Under Pennsylvania law, a sexually violent predator is a person who has been convicted of a violent sexual offense and has “a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.”
After someone is convicted of a violent sexual offense in Pennsylvania, but prior to sentencing, that person must undergo a formal process to determine if they should be classified as a Sexually Violent Predator. This process includes an investigation of the offender's personal history; assessment by psychologists and a designated board member of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board; and if warranted, a court hearing.
Thereafter, if the sentencing court decrees that the offender is a Sexually Violent Predator, the offender will have life-long requirements to register with local law enforcement and attend monthly mandatory sex offender counseling. Law enforcement officers will let people in the community know about the offender and their offense, and they will distribute a photo of the offender.
Juvenile sex offenders may go into an inpatient sex offender program before they are classified as a Sexually Violent Predator.
No matter what the specifics, any allegations of a sex crime are very serious. You need a knowledgeable, experienced legal team on your side. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for a consultation, or click here.