Of course it did! Every year the politicians need something that will help them get re-elected.
By Kevin Amerman
Changes will force more defendants to register as sex offenders; thousands of appeals could result.
When former DeSales University custodian [name withheld] was sentenced to jail in September for secretly filming partially naked co-workers — one while she pumped breast milk — there was no mention in court that he would have to register with the state as a sex offender.
That's because he doesn't have to — yet.
But come December, [name withheld] and scores of others will have to register as sex offenders under sweeping changes to the state's Megan's Law. The changes, which will take effect Dec. 20, will increase the number of years sex offenders have to register and broaden the law to include more crimes, such as invasion of privacy.
- Just more of the usual unconstitutional ex post facto laws. I sure hope invasion of privacy is defined and must be sexual in nature, otherwise there is going to be a lot of people put onto the online hit-list who do not need to be there.
Under Megan's Law, photos and addresses of registered offenders are placed on the Megan's Law website, for everyone to see and defendants face penalties for failing to register properly or on time.
Authorities say the changes are necessary to close major loopholes. Under the current law, out-of-state sex offenders who move to Pennsylvania are not required to register and homeless people are exempt. The new law closes those loopholes and also forces sex offenders to register for longer and update their information more frequently — as often as four times a year.
Some of the new crimes listed as Megan's Law offenses deal with custody interference and unlawful restraint of a child. Others don't necessarily have to involve minors.
- Unlawful restraint of a child could be you catching kids in your yard tearing it up, and you hold them until police arrive, which you've now committed a crime that will label you a sex offender when nothing sexual was involved. Well, that is how I read it, which may not be true, since they did not link to the new law to be read by others.
"We used to think of Megan's Law as protection against pedophiles," Lehigh County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Falk said. "It has expanded beyond that."
- And still the media continues to use the term pedophile when referring to those labeled sex offender, even when no sex was involved, thus keeping the hysteria alive, which is probably their intention.
But defense attorneys say the changes may violate some offenders' rights, mainly because the new law is retroactive for some offenders. Anyone serving jail time on the newly included crimes or serving probation or parole on them will now have to register — a move some attorneys say is sure to set off a firestorm of appeals.
[name withheld], 33, pleaded guilty to invasion of privacy. His attorney, Jay Nigrini, said he advised [name withheld] of the possibility he may have to register as a sex offender under the new law. The changes show [name withheld] will have to register for 15 years.
If that happens, Nigrini said he likely would appeal. He figures others will too.
"There are going to be problems with this logistically, absolutely," Nigrini said. "This will be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court."
- Everybody in this state should sue the government, if possible, and file a lawsuit. When you make it hurt financially, then it will make them think and possibly repeal the law.
One major problem, Nigrini said, is that nothing had been put on the record about Megan's Law registration during his client's guilty plea hearing and hearings for thousands of others like him. Therefore, it wasn't part of the deal and may be unconstitutional, he said.
- If it wasn't a law when the person was convicted and sentenced, then it's unconstitutional.
Lehigh County public defender Earl Supplee said it's simply not fair to retroactively force people to register as sexual offenders.
"I don't think it's right to increase penalties retroactively," he said. "The question is: Is Megan's Law [registration] a punishment?"
- Of course it is. If you have to live with the insane restrictions, then you would know that.
Supplee said defendants who pleaded guilty or no contest to offenses that didn't require them to register as sex offenders might argue that they wouldn't have entered the pleas had they known they'd have to register.
"The person could say, 'I would have fought the case if it was a Megan's Law case,'" Supplee said. "That's where I think you could have legitimate constitutional challenges."
- As you should! Everybody should take this to court!
Supplee said appeals courts could rule that registering as a sex offender is not a punishment and is a "collateral consequence" and can therefore be applied. Collateral consequences are considered non-direct results of prosecutions that are not part of a sentence. They can include the loss of a certain license, welfare benefits, voting rights or deportation and are viewed as being beyond the realm of a sentencing judge.
- So what they are basically saying is, anything goes! Imaging if they added more punishment onto all other criminals? We'd have so many law suits in the system, that the system goes broke, and crashes!
Lehigh County Judge Douglas G. Reichley, who was a state representative when the bill was passed, said he doesn't recall any concerns expressed by lawmakers that retroactive registration could violate a defendant's rights.
- It doesn't matter if there are or aren't concerns! If you read and know the constitution, and are defending it, like you took an oath to do, then you'd see it's unconstitutional.
The law's changes, based on the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, create three tiers of offenders with registration requirements of 15 years, 25 years or life. Currently there are two types of registration: 10 years or life.