Megan’s Law Fixes –The Sequel

November 2, 2011

HARRISBURG, PA – Dangerous sex offenders who have avoided registration under Megan’s Law because of unintended loopholes that permit transient and out-of-state sex offenders to avoid registering may soon have their anonymity come to an end. The state House of Representatives passed SB 818 yesterday, earning praise from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA), which has made closing these dangerous loopholes its top 2011 legislative priority. The bill, which was originally intended to require judges to state their reasons on the record for juvenile dispositions, now heads to the Senate for a final vote of concurrence.

“These loopholes have allowed dozens of dangerous sex offenders across the Commonwealth to live in our communities without any accountability or consequence,” said PDAA President and Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz, who noted that prosecutors have been forced to drop charges against known sex offenders because of the current law. “By not changing the law our state is sending an open invitation to sex offenders across the country to settle in Pennsylvania.

“We are pleased to see the House of Representatives recognize and act on the urgency prosecutors feel every day in our communities. Now we urge the Senate to send the legislation to Governor Tom Corbett as soon as it returns on November 14.”

Tuesday marked the second time the House of Representatives has led to pass legislation to close the Megan’s Law loopholes in 2011. Last February, the House passed its version of the Megan’s Law fix in the form of HB 68. In the Senate, SB 42, which only covers out-of-state offenders, was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 14 and has not moved since. Meanwhile, district attorneys report being forced to drop failure to register charges against dozens of known sex offenders throughout the state.

“The unrelenting efforts and commitment by both Republicans and Democrats in the House to do the right thing deserves recognition and our thanks,” said Schultz. “Judiciary Chairmen Ron Marsico and Tom Caltagirone deserve enormous thanks and appreciation for standing up for parents, families and neighbors who do not want to see sex offenders roam free. Speaker of the House Sam Smith, Republican Leader Mike Turzai and Democratic Leader Frank Dermody have shown admirable bi-partisan leadership in their repeated efforts to ensure the swift passage of legislation to close the loopholes. We hope the Senate will see their commitment and do the right thing.”

Megan’s Law makes information available to the public regarding convicted sexual predators and requires certain offenders to register with the state after they are released from prison. The original law, however, was found to be deficient in addressing the registration of out-of-state and transient offenders. Fixes to the law include requiring homeless and/or transient offenders to register with state police and subjecting homeless and/or transient offenders and out-of-state offenders to criminal penalties for failing to register.