Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry Act Unconstitutional as Applied to Low-Risk Non-Sex-Offender
From Friday’s decision in Commonwealth v. Muhammad, written by Justice Stabile and joined by Justices Panella and Musmanno:
Based on Appellant’s convictions for interference with custody of children (“interference”) and conspiracy to interfere with custody of children (“conspiracy”), the trial court ordered Appellant to register as a sexual offender under Revised Subchapter H of the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) as a Tier I offender. We hold that SORNA is unconstitutional as applied to Appellant, because it creates an irrebuttable presumption that her convictions for interference and conspiracy make her a risk to commit additional sexual offenses….
The present case arose from a custody dispute between Khalid and Angelita, the father and mother of a three-year-old child, Pharaoh. Appellant assisted Khalid in taking Pharaoh away from Angelita by (1) driving with Khalid and Lisa Walker to Pharaoh’s home in Reading, (2) pulling Angelita’s daughter, Liajah, away while Pharaoh was placed in the car, (3) leaving Reading in the car with Khalid, Pharaoh, Liajah, and Lisa, and (4) driving to a train station in Philadelphia, where Pharaoh was transferred to another vehicle.
The interference and conspiracy convictions would normally require, under the Pennsylvania SORNA, that the defendant register as a sex offender; but this, the appellate court concluded, was unconstitutional in this case:
SORNA prescribes that “[s]exual offenders pose a high risk of committing additional sexual offenses[.]”Based on this presumption, SORNA requires the State Police to maintain a statewide registry of sexual offenders that lists substantial information concerning the offenders. Further, the State Police must disseminate this information to the public through a website that is searchable by “any given zip code or geographic radius set by the user.” At sentencing, the trial court must, inter alia, inform a sexual offender of the offender’s duty to register and require the offender to r
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