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Exception to Hainesworth Noted for Federal Case

The concept of Com v. Hainesworth may not be applicable to federal cases where the Commonwealth is not a participant in the plea agreement

A recent decision by the Pennsylvania Superior Court provides clarification to the decision of the same Court in Commonwealth v. Hainesworth, 82 A3d 444 (December 12, 2013). (see link to article written regarding Hainesworth). The basic concept is that if you enter a plea agreement with the Commonwealth (county district attorney or attorney general) for a set sentence and a set period of SORNA registration that may be applicable at the time of sentence, you may not later have to register under a new period of registration required by law.

However, what is important to note is that one has to be engaged in the negotiation with a Commonwealth agent. In Commonwealth v. Giannantonio, 2015 Pa.Super 89 (Pa.Super. Ct. April 20, 2015), a sex offender negotiated a federal plea. It was the plea for that crime which subjected him to an increased registration period under SORNA (effective 12/20/2012). SORNA was not passed at the time he entered the plea, but argued that he was to receive a 10-year registration period under the conviction. The rub here is that there was no negotiation with the Commonwealth. It was a federal plea. Therefore, the Commonwealth cannot be held to its bargain as it was in Hainesworth.

The "Take Away"

An important point to recognize for any defendant that is charged with a sex offense, is not only to properly defend against the crime, but to properly defend against the collateral consequences of a conviction. Here, although the defendant could not have known about the future consequences of SORNA because it wasn't even enacted until after he was convicted, he or his counsel should have recognized that Megan's Law has changed over time. So will SORNA. It's a matter of when. A clear and concise statement of the sentence and the consequences for registration must be made concurrently on the record with the entry of the plea.