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Portion of SORNA or Megan's Law IV Held Unconstitutional

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A provision of Megan's Law IV or the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") that requires in person registration is unconstitutional.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Sex Crimes Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

In the case of Coppolino v. Comm'r of the Pa. State Police, 2014 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 491 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Oct. 14, 2014), the Pennsylvania Commowealth Court held that the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) could not require Coppolino (a convicted sex offender) to make updates required by Megan's Law IV in person.  The Court reviewed a particular section of the law and determined that 42 Pa.C.S. § 9799.15, which requires a person to register in person violated the ex post facto provisions of the constitution and otherwise denied petitioner's motion.

In particular, section 9799.15 provides that a registrant: "shall appear in person at an approved registration site no less than 21 days in advance of traveling outside of the United States. The individual shall provide the following information: (1) Dates of travel, including date of return to the United States. (2) Destinations. (3) Temporary lodging."  Further, the failure to register in person, even if having to leave their current residence in the case of a natural disaster would subject them to penalties under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 4915 for failing to register.

This is only a small provision of SORNA or Megan's Law IV, as several courts have referred to the new law.  However, the implications for someone who fails to register in person can be very severe, including mandatory jail time.  Registration is still required, however, it can be done online.  Initial registration must still be done in person.

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