PA court determines that the sex offender registry is a form of punishment.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued an important decision on May 11, 2020, in which it determined that annual registration as well as publication of a registrant’s personal information on the internet constitutes punishment. The petition in this case committed a sex offense prior to the effective date of these requirements.
According to the Court, annual in-person registration “imposes affirmative restraints and probation-like conditions.” The Court determined that the annual registration requirement was excessive. The Court also ruled that the state law requiring the posting a registrant’s personal information on a public lawsuit was punitive because “the Internet dissemination provision resembles history shaming punishments.” The Court also noted that Internet dissemination was “excessive in relation to the assigned purposes of protecting the public in the immediate vicinity where the offender resides.”
“The judges in this case are to be commended for their ability to clearly see that the registration requirements at issue in this case constitute punishment,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “It is hoped that judges in other states will follow their example.”
The Court based its decision in part upon the fact that the petitioner in the case offended prior to the state legislature’s passage of the laws at issue. Specifically, the Court noted that “Petitioner did not have fair warning at the time of commission of the offenses that he would have multifaceted registration requirements for the rest of his life.”