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Megan's Law and "Letter Adjudications"

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The PA State Police lack the statutory authority to do "letter adjudications" of individuals released from incarceration or on probation as sex offenders.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Megan's Law/Adam Walsh Act Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Steven O'Grady was convicted as a sex offender in 1992.  O'Grady v. Pennsylvania State Police, 2598 CD 2002 (Pa.Cmwlth Ct., 9/16/2003).  In 1995, Megan's Law I was enacted into law and was made effective April 22, 1996.  This law required that certain persons register their current address with the State Police.  In early 1998, Steven did just that.  According to the State Police, Mr. O'Grady had to register until February 13, 2008- what's referred to as a "letter adjudication."  His attorney wrote a letter to the PA State Police in 2003, which stated "in the absence of a pre-registration hearing or administrative appeal process," we're asking that Mr. O'Grady no longer have to register as the offense for which he was convicted of in 1992 only requires a 10 year registration period.

When Does The Registration Period Commence?

The Pennsylvania State Police argued Steven's 10 year period did not commence until the date of his initial registration on February 13, 1998.  Mr. O'Grady argued it started the date he was released onto the street, or in 1992 when he was placed on probation (recall that the law didn't take effect until 1996).  No definitive answer is given by the decision, however, currently the Adam Walsh Act has been worded to require the registration period to begin from the date of initial registration, not release from incarceration.  The current law requires registration within 48 hours.

Who has the Authority to Adjudicate the Period of Registration?

What is clear from this non-binding opinion is that the State Police are not an administrative agency given the authority to make these determinations.  I would also note, that the new Adam Walsh Act passed in 2011 and effective December 20, 2012 in 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 9799.28, only places authority in the court of common pleas and the sexual offenders assessment board to make the determination if one is a sexually violent predator.  Concerns exist when the Pennsylvania State Police take steps to classify someone into a "Tier" under the Adam Walsh Act when no such classification previously existed.  That's not their job and they do not have authority to do so.

If you have a concern regarding your registration under the Adam Walsh Act (Megan's Law is no longer constitutionally valid), you should contact experienced counsel to determine what action, if any, should be taken on your part with the Pennsylvania State Police or other entity that can determine your appropriate registration period.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle toll free or email us today.

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