Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law


Megan Kanka was 7 when she was killed by a registered sexual offender who moved across her street, prompting her family to work with lawmakers on Megan’s Law which requires states to create and publish a registry of people convicted of sexual offenses.

Information on a registry is made public and typically includes details such as an offender’s name, photo, address, employer, and car tabs. Failing to register can be considered a felony.

What is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law refers to laws in each state requiring individuals charged with certain sexual offenses to register with their local police department to protect against further acts by registered sexual offenders who repeat such crimes. It aims to safeguard public safety.

Megan’s Law used to only apply to individuals charged with serious crimes like rape or sexual assault; however, many states now mandate registration and community notification of individuals accused of lesser offenses like indecent assault, possession of child pornography, and other sexually explicit crimes.

State Megan’s Law laws vary, but all require people convicted of certain sex offenses to either register with or be publicly notified upon moving into their area. These laws are known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which sets out basic guidelines all states should abide by when passing such registry laws.

State police must maintain a registry for sexual offenders who commit sexual offenses in their state; offenders are required to update their status when moving addresses or returning from imprisonment, with this information then made publicly available via state websites or contacting police directly. People must register honestly; failing to do so could result in criminal prosecution for falsification.

Being listed as a sexual offender carries an indefinable stigma that can prevent someone from finding employment, housing, or receiving healthcare or mental health care. Furthermore, being listed can have devastating repercussions for family relationships and friendship formation; even though laws that require sexual offenders to register aim at protecting children and families; their effects can still have long-term ramifications on those forced to comply.

With social media and globalization at our fingertips, it has never been easier for anyone with internet access to access state sex offender registry websites and gains intimate details about people’s lives – exposing registrants to vigilantes around the globe and placing their families in jeopardy. While Pennsylvania General Assembly legislation has been passed to improve this system by restricting who can access this list, its effectiveness remains far from ideal.

Who is required to register?

Pennsylvania State Police maintain a database of individuals charged with sexual offenses known as Megan’s Law Registry, accessible via online search or call to the state police. Certain sex offenders must register for various periods depending on whether or not they qualify as “sexually violent predators” (SVPs) or ordinary sexual offenders (OSOs).

State Police require psychological evaluations on those they suspect of sexually violent predatory activity to ascertain if a person should be classified as such; psychiatrists and psychologists will evaluate his/her behaviors and make their determination as part of what’s known as “predator assessments.”

Sexually violent predators must register for life, while ordinary sex offenders need only register for 15 years, 25 years, or 90 days, depending on the nature of their offense. Anyone failing to register or update their information risks criminal prosecution.

Importantly, Megan’s Law registry only applies to residents of Pennsylvania; however, out-of-state sex offenders who violated Pennsylvania laws could also be required to register there. A lawyer can assist an out-of-state offender in understanding his or her legal responsibilities regarding registration in PA.

Consultations with an attorney are also essential if a sex offender has been charged with crimes involving children to ensure that all appropriate procedures are taken to protect children. Failing to comply with sex offender registration laws could result in criminal charges and prison time. Still, an experienced Philadelphia child pornography defense lawyer can help sex offenders avoid such outcomes by offering legal defense strategies that minimize jail time and fines. At the Law Firm of David Shrager, we believe everyone deserves another chance. We listen with compassion and understanding instead of judgment or reproach as we assess your case details. Our sex crimes team of lawyers is well-versed with Pennsylvania state and U.S. Federal laws regarding sexual offenses, so they can assist you in safeguarding your rights and protecting them.

How is Megan’s Law implemented?

Megan’s Law was passed in 1995 to require people convicted of certain sexual offenses against minors to register and become active community members. Under this statute, police are mandated to notify anyone living within a certain radius of an offender’s home or place of employment if there are suspicions that children could be at risk due to his/her behavior.

The law was initially created as a means to ensure child safety and stop sexually violent predators, with massively positive results in terms of increased protection for children and less crime from sexually violent predators. It proved a viral initiative and has saved many children’s lives. But in 2012, some aspects of registration and community notification requirements were tightened even further and applied retroactively; many plea deals offered under prior sales, which showed 10 or 25 years of registration, suddenly had to register forever after applying these changes retroactively!

Registering can be highly burdensome; those required to register must also update their status whenever their address changes. This often creates difficulties in finding employment and housing; additionally, being part of the registry can impose a stigma that makes forming and maintaining healthy relationships much more challenging.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law Registry can be accessed by anyone worldwide – this puts registrants at risk from global vigilantes and harassment as well as scamming attempts; ultimately, this can have devastating repercussions for their family, friends, and career.

Pennsylvania state auditor, Daniel Tobias, has recently discovered that Megan’s Law is being implemented poorly and called on Gov. Ed Rendell to address and improve this problem. Tobias suggested several specific improvements, including providing adequate training for state police and creating programs designed to answer families’ inquiries regarding Megan’s Law. Furthermore, Tobias suggested the state police implement a verification process to ensure all registered sex offenders have current contact details and updates on file.

What are the penalties for failing to register?

Under Pennsylvania state law, anyone found guilty of certain sexual offenses must register as a sexual offender with the Pennsylvania State Police. Megan’s Law or Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) establishes this registry that can be found online and contains registrants’ full names.

The purpose of the Registry for Sexual Offenders is to protect the public, especially children, from those convicted of serious sexual offenses and to identify where these sex offenders live – helping police and authorities track these criminals and prevent further victims. Failure to register can carry severe penalties, including prison time.

For various reasons, failure to register under Megan’s Law or SORNA could occur. For instance, if a sexual offender on probation or parole for another crime, when ordered to register under Megan’s Law, breaks their supervised release agreement and fails to register they could end up returning to jail or prison; also failing to adhere to other aspects of their supervised release agreement such as attending counseling sessions may constitute a violation.

Failing to update information in the registry on time can also violate Megan’s Law, such as when an offender’s “verification anniversary” comes and goes. They fail to update it, or when traveling and not notifying state police they are away, or changing locations without editing their registration data.

Megan’s Law changed in late 2011, expanding the crimes for which registration is required and lengthening its enforcement period. These amendments led to numerous individuals having to register retroactively even though they have completed their sentence and fulfilled all requirements of their supervised release agreements, creating much distress among individuals unfairly penalized or injured by these changes, mainly since many state laws are no longer constitutionally sound.