1. What is Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law?
In 1995, Pennsylvania adopted Megan’s Law, which required offenders convicted of certain sex crimes to register information (such as their name and home address) with the Pennsylvania State Police and to have their photograph and other identifying information posted on the public Megan’s Law website.
2. What is the Adam Walsh Act and what is SORNA?
The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law by President Bush on July 27, 2006. Title I of the federal Adam Walsh Act is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act or “SORNA.” One of the goals of the federal Adam Walsh Act, and of SORNA in particular, was to address the inconsistency across the various state Megan’s Law registries and to create a uniform standard for sex offender registry requirements.
To achieve this goal, the federal Adam Walsh Act required the states to implement legislation that was in substantial compliance with the sex offender registry requirements set forth in SORNA. On December 20, 2011, in order to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with SORNA, Governor Corbett signed Act 111 of 2011 (as amended by Act 91 of 2012) into law. This new law is known as Pennsylvania’s “Adam Walsh Act.” Pennsylvania’s Adam Walsh Act incorporates, amends and effectively replaces the Commonwealth’s “Megan’s Law” statute.
3. What are the major differences between Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act?
Under Pennsylvania’s Adam Walsh Act, more crimes were added to the list of offenses that require registration with the Pennsylvania State Police and assessment by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB). For example, individuals convicted of certain Corruption of Minors and Statutory Sexual Assault offenses are now required to register with the State Police and be assessed by the SOAB.
Under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, offenders convicted of the listed Megan’s Law offenses were required to register for 10 years or for life based on their crime of conviction. Under Pennsylvania’s Adam Walsh Act, offenders convicted of the listed Adam Walsh Act offenses are assigned to a Tier based on their crime of conviction:
- Tier I offenders must register with the Pennsylvania State Police for 15 years and verify their registration information in-person once a year.
- Tier II offenders must register with the State Police for 25 years and verify their registration information in-person twice a year.
- Tier III offenders must register with the State Police for life and verify their registration information in-person four times a year.
Under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, individuals convicted of the listed Megan’s Law offenses were required to register upon release from incarceration. Under Pennsylvania’s Adam Walsh Act, individuals convicted of one of the listed Adam Walsh Act offenses must register at the time of sentencing.
Under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, juvenile sex offenders were not required to register with the State Police (unless their cases were certified to adult court). Under the Adam Walsh Act, certain juvenile sex offenders are required to register with the State Police, but their registration information is only included on a private, law enforcement registry and is not posted on the public Megan’s Law website.
4. What is a Sexually Violent Predator?
A Sexually Violent Predator is a sex offender convicted of an Adam Walsh Act offense in Pennsylvania who has “a mental abnormality or personality disorder the makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.” 42 Pa. C.S. § 9799.12. Every time an individual is convicted of an Adam Walsh Act offense in Pennsylvania, the Court must order a Sexually Violent Predator assessment of that individual by the SOAB.
Within 90 days of the date of conviction, the SOAB must submit a written assessment recommending whether or not the individual should be classified as a Sexually Violent Predator, based on numerous factors set forth in the law. The final determination as to whether someone should be classified as a Sexually Violent Predator is made by the Court after a Sexually Violent Predator hearing.
If an individual convicted of a Tier I, Tier II or Tier III offense is classified by the Court as a Sexually Violent Predator, the individual is automatically subject to:
- Lifetime registration with the Pennsylvania State Police with quarterly in-person verification of his registration information;
- Lifetime, at least monthly, mandatory sex offender counseling with a treatment provider approved by the SOAB; and
- Active community notification, whereby local law enforcement authorities notify neighbors, county children and youth agencies, local day care centers, school districts and institutions of higher education of the Sexually Violent Predator’s name, residential address and offense; and also provide a photograph of the offender.
5. What is a Sexually Violent Delinquent Child?
Under Pennsylvania’s Act 21 of 2003, the SOAB is required to assess certain juvenile sex offenders who are aging out the juvenile justice system. These Act 21 assessments assist the courts in determining whether a juvenile sex offender should be committed to the Commonwealth’s inpatient juvenile civil commitment program for continued sex offender treatment rather then being released into the community upon turning 21 years of age.
To meet the criteria for commitment, the juvenile must have a “mental abnormality or personality disorder” that causes the offender to have “serious difficulty in controlling sexually violent behavior” that makes him “likely to engage in an act of sexual violence.” 42 Pa. C.S. §6402, §6403(a)(3).
If the Court decides to commit the juvenile to the involuntary civil commitment program, the juvenile is referred to as a Sexually Violent Delinquent Child. Sexually Violent Delinquent Children are required to register with Pennsylvania State Police and are subject to virtually the same registration requirements as Sexually Violent Predators (see response to Question 4).