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Pennsylvania Supreme Court throws out parts of Megan's Law

This problem may be short lived, but correcting the mess caused by this -Legislative Error-, will be a disaster. Some folks may have to be released from prison or probation after having certain convictions overturned. All Lawmakers need to read their State Constitutions. Now if folks remember, Pennsylvania recently became SORNA Compliant according to the SMART Office. Welcome to the world of Chaos.

UPDATE: Just so folks know, this decision did not say "Megan's Law" is invalid, it said, the way CERTAIN provisions of "Megan's Law" was enacted in Pennsylvania ONLY was incorrect. Their state constitution says "enact laws ___this way__" and they failed to follow that way; a procedural legislative error, nothing more. However, correcting anything that was done pursuant to the resulting law (i.e., FTR charges, and other things) will be a disaster undoing (correcting) them.


12-17-2013 Pennsylvania:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out portions of the state's sex-offender registration law on Monday, telling lawmakers they violated the constitution's requirement that bills that become law must be confined to a single subject.

The justices ruled that a set of changes made to Megan's Law in 2004 was not constitutional, noting that the legislation also included such measures as a two-year statute of limitations on asbestos actions, the jurisdictional parameters of park police, and revisions to real estate law.
Pennsylvania's Constitution
Article III
Form of Bills
Section 3.
No bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except a general appropriation bill or a bill codifying or compiling the law or a part thereof.
The court then put its decision on hold for three months to allow the Legislature to find a remedy.

"We will stay our decision, as we have done under similar circumstances, in order to provide a reasonable amount of time for the General Assembly to consider appropriate remedial remedies, and to allow for a smooth transition period," wrote Justice Debra Todd for the five-justice majority.

As revised in 2004, Megan's law created a searchable online database of offenders, set new punishments for offenders who did not register, and added luring and institutional sexual assault to the list of offenses that require 10-year registration.

It also set notification rules for out-of-state offenders who move to Pennsylvania, altered duties of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, and established community notification about sexually violent offenders.

Todd said the single-subject rule, which dates to 1864 and has recently been a factor in several high-profile cases, gives people confidence they can weigh in before a bill is passed, and helps lawmakers know what they are voting on ahead of time.

"When an act of the Legislature violates the single-subject rule, all of its provisions are equally repugnant to the constitution, and, thus, equally void," Todd said.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille
filed a lone dissent, saying it was a close question but that he would have upheld the law.

"Any law passing through the enactment process is the result of salutary legislative compromise and the single-subject rule is not intended to completely discourage such compromise," Castille wrote.

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus, noted that revisions to Megan's Law enacted two years ago that brought Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act were drafted with an eye toward the case the court just decided.



"We think just about all of them have been enacted in the Adam Walsh law," Miskin said. "I'm not sure about 100 percent. Pennsylvania's Megan's Law is still in effect."

Gov. Tom Corbett's spokesman said he was disappointed in the decision and hoped to work with the Legislature to address the issues raised by the decision. ..Source.. by MARK SCOLFORO



Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Trouble with Megan's Law

12-19-2013 Pennsylvania:

County district attorney reacts

The state Supreme Court has ruled parts of Megan's Law unconstitutional because of how changes were made to it nearly a decade ago, but the state's prosecutors association says the law is still in effect.

However, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman isn't so sure there won't be problems.

The court, in a 5-1 ruling Monday, said legislation making changes to Megan's Law in 2004 violated the state constitution's single-subject rule.

The rule exists so the public — and lawmakers — can know what a bill is about before it is voted on, Justice Debra Todd wrote in her opinion.

The legislation providing for the changes to Megan's Law initially dealt only with real estate sales. But it was amended to add changes to Megan's Law, along with county park police jurisdiction, among other things, the court wrote.

The revisions to Megan's Law included creating a searchable database of all registered offenders, establishing registration and community notification procedures for sexually violent predators, adding luring and institutional sexual assault to offenses requiring registration for 10 years and establishing local police notification procedures for out-of state sexual offenders who move to Pennsylvania.

The court stayed its ruling for 90 days so the Legislature can fix the problems with the law.

In the opinion, the court stressed it wasn't taking issue with the parts of the law in question "such as Megan's Law III, which serves a vital purpose in protecting our commonwealth's citizens and children, in particular, from victimization by sexual predators."

Megan's Law III is how the version of Megan's Law in question was referred to in the court's opinion.

The court also pointed out that it was dealing only with one version of Megan's Law. That version was replaced with updates made a couple of years ago to bring it into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

"A new version of Megan's Law was enacted in 2011, so that's a brand-new Megan's Law. The court case dealt with an earlier version of Megan's Law," said Richard Long, executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.


Long said that if any fix is required, however, lawmakers will do so.

Stedman said that while he was hopeful lawmakers would act, he had concerns, though he hadn't fully examined the court's opinion.

"Because they are saying the statute was unconstitutional, I am concerned that this decision will invalidate all failure-to-register cases" between 2004 and the Adam Walsh compliant law, Stedman said.

"If that turns out to be the case, the consequences of the legislative failure to abide by the single-subject standard will be terrible and cannot be fixed regardless of the fact the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stayed their decision for 90 days," Stedman said.


In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote, "Reasonable minds could certainly differ on the question of whether (the law) exceeds the limits of the single-subject doctrine," but he would have upheld it. ..Source.. by DAN NEPHIN

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