"A Common Pleas Court judge has ruled that a West Goshen man convicted of forcing himself sexually on a sleeping woman will not have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life", wrote reporter Michael Rellahan of the Daily Local News (click here for his full article).
Judge Anthony Sarcione signed an order on July 10th stating that the law, requiring a defendant report to the state police as a sex offender, was unconstitutional. Sarcione said the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act, known as SORNA, violated the fundamental right to reputation under the Pennsylvania constitution as well as federal guarantees of due process.
Sarcione's ruling was in response to the motion of attorney Marni Snyder of Philadelphia. Her motion set forth that the SORNA requirements added an undue secondary punishment on her client who had no prior record before his arrest in 2015.
Snyder said, in her motion to preclude her client from having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, that the SORNA statute,
“constitutes criminal punishment” without a chance to challenge its imposition".
Another judge in Montgomery County, Judge William Carpenter, came to a similar conclusion on June 22 dealing with a case before him. This all follows the PA Supreme Court decision that the state's SORNA had "become so onerous that it was unconstitutional" not only by testing it against the PA constitution but the federal constitution as well. After this ruling the US Supreme Court denied to review the PA Supreme Court decision. Since then the PA legislators have enacted a law in response to this decision. According to reporter Rellahan, this new version signed by Governor Wolf "is having little success in standing up to judicial scrutiny".
First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone said Monday that his office had filed a notice of appeal of Sarcione’s decision on the constitutionality of the SORNA provisions.
It is the position of PARSOL that public registries are punitive in nature, bear close resemblance to historical shaming practices and thereby violate the United States constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as well as the Pennsylvania constitutional right to reputation.
It is further the position of PARSOL that the laws passed by our state legislature have typically been either in retributive response to a particularly heinous single crime or for the purpose of allowing legislators, prosecutors and judges to portray themselves as “tough on crime” for political purposes.
It sounds like at least some judges are now understanding how misguided and unconstitutional the sexual offense laws are in Pennsylvania.