Constitutionality of SORNA as Amended

Commonwealth v. Lacombe, appeal docket 35 MAP 2018; Commonwealth v. Torsilieri, appeal docket 37 MAP 2018; Commonwealth v. Witmayer, appeal docket 64 MAP 2018 (original jurisdiction)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear argument in these direct appeals from trial courts declaring unconstitutional recent amendments to Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), as amended.

Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, 42 Pa.C.S § 9799.32(1) and § 9799.67(1) , requires the State Police to create and maintain a registry of persons who reside in the Commonwealth , or are transient in, work/carry on a vocation, or attend school in the Commonwealth, and who have been convicted of, entered a plea of guilty to, or adjudicated delinquent of certain Sexual Offenses in Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction. SORNA, originally effective December 20, 2012, governs who must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, the type of information that must be provided, how often that information must be provided, and for how long an offender must register. In response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision Commonwealth v. Muniz, 164 A.3d 1189 (Pa. 2017), and the Superior Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Butler, 173 A.3d 1212 (Pa. Super. 2017), the General Assembly passed Acts 10 and 29 of 2018 to cure SORNA’s previously-identified constitutional defects. Specifically, the General Assembly modified Subchapter H’s registration requirements for those offenders convicted of offenses that occurred on or after SORNA’s effective date and added Subchapter I to Title 42, Part VII, Chapter 97, which sets forth registration requirements that apply to all offenders convicted of committing offenses on or after the effective date of Megan’s Law (April 22, 1996), but prior to SORNA’s effective date (December 20, 2012), whose period of registration has not expired.

Defendants Lacombe, Witmayer, and Torsilieri challenged the law as amended and the Montgomery and Chester County Courts of Common Pleas have declared it unconstitutional. as punitive on its face and as applied  Specifically, in addition to defendant-specific issues, the Court will hear oral argument on the question:

Did the lower court err when it concluded that Act 29, Subchapter I, is punitive and unconstitutional, where the statute is intended to protect the community from recidivist sexual predators and is not punitive in effect?

For more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker.