Changes are coming to the way Pennsylvania handles sexual offender registrations.
Act 111 of 2011 made extensive changes to Pennsylvania's sexual offender laws to bring them into line with federal standards set by the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act in 2006.
Some of those changes took effect at signing on Dec. 20 of last year, some took effect 60 days later, but the lion's share are set to take effect this December.
The upcoming changes include a broader list of offenses requiring registration, introduction of a tiered offense grading system, new minimum penalties for failure to register and a provision for registration of minors in cases of the most serious offenses.
Twenty-five offenses have been added to the 14 existing offenses requiring registration. Most are common sense additions, as they have a direct sexual component, but unlawful restraint and false imprisonment offenses in the case where the victim is a minor and the offender is not the child's parent or guardian have been put on the list as well.
The law will introduce a tiered offense system. Some offenses appear at more than one tier and their grading is dependent on the circumstances or severity of the offense.
Offenders convicted of one of the 20 Tier I offenses will be required to register as a sexual offender for 15 years and appear in person to report to the Pennsylvania State Police annually. Offenders convicted of one of the 16 Tier II offenses will be required to register for a period of 25 years and appear to report semiannually. Offenders convicted of one of the 12 Tier III offenses will be required to register for life and appear to report quarterly.
Those convicted of offenses comparable to those Pennsylvania requires registration for under military law or the jurisdiction of another state or even a foreign country fall under the tier containing the offense which most closely matches the offense they were convicted of.
Conviction for attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit an offense is treated for purposes of registration as the same as the corresponding offense.
A person convicted of two or more Tier I or II offenses or a Tier II offense with a subsequent conviction for a felony offense is graded as a Tier III registrant.
The new registration laws don't just apply to new convictions or just to convictions in Pennsylvania.
Any new conviction for a qualifying offense or similar offense anywhere, even outside the country, requires registration in Pennsylvania if the offender has a Pennsylvania residence, is employed or a student in the state or is a transient in the state.
If an offender is an inmate in a correctional institution, on probation or parole, is subject to intermediate punishment in the state; is incarcerated or being monitored federally, or has supervision transferred to the state, due to a qualifying offense committed prior to the law taking effect is subject to the new requirements if the offender has a Pennsylvania residence, is employed or a student in the state or is a transient in the state.
Offenders currently required to register in Pennsylvania who have not completed their period of registration are subject to the new requirements, including increases in registration periods.
Offenders required to register in any other jurisdiction due to conviction for a qualify offense are required to register in the state for the remainder of the time of their registration requirement in another jurisdiction if the offender has a Pennsylvania residence, is employed or a student in the state or is a transient in the state.
The law also puts a new burden on those previously required to register in the state. Under the new guidelines, an offender who has completed their registration period will be once again required to register if they are convicted of any felony offense regardless of the nature of the crime. The length of time since an offenders conviction or completion of registration and the nature of the original conviction are not taken into consideration.
Under the new law, mandatory minimums for failure to comply with registration requirements are changing.
A Tier I registrant who fails to comply is subject to a minimum of two years incarceration. The minimum increases to three years if the violation is for providing inaccurate information when registering. A Tier II or III registrant is subject to minimums of three years and five years respectively.
Second and subsequent offenses carry minimum sentences of five years and seven years respectively, regardless of tier classification.
The new law also introduces for the first time circumstances in which a minor is subject to registration requirements.
Juveniles 14 years of age or older who commit, attempt to commit, solicit or conspire to commit offenses of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or aggravated indecent assault are required to register for life. All of the offenses requiring registration by minors are Tier III offenses.
An offender required to register under the juvenile provision of the law may, if certain requirements are met, petition to be removed from the registration requirements after 25 years.
A minor determined by the court to be a "sexually violent delinquent child" must register for life.