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Pennsylvania Judge Eases Lifetime Registration Requirements for Juvenile Sex Offenders

sexual crimes

A York County judge has ruled a Pennsylvania law imposing lifetime registration requirements on juvenile sex offenders unconstitutional. In his controversial ruling, Senior Judge John C. Uhler concluded that the registration provision of Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) prevents the court from considering the many unique attributes of youth offenders and unfairly treats them the same as adult sex offenders.

SORNA was passed in 2011 to comply with a federal law. In his November 2013 opinion, Judge Uhler argued the registration process is unconstitutional because of its “one size fits all” feature, which the U.S. Supreme Court found similarly unconstitutional with respect to juvenile murder sentencing.

At the center of the ruling were seven local teens found guilty of rape and other sex crimes who were required by Pennsylvania’s SORNA law to register with the state police for life. In defending his position, Uhler cited the Supreme Court’s reasoning that “children are constitutionally different from adults … because of their diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform.” He also noted research showing recidivism among juvenile sex offenders to be extremely low. In the case of the seven teens, the judge ordered the state police to remove them from the sex offender registry.

The ruling is expected to be appealed. But in the meantime, Aaron Marcus of the Defender Association of Philadelphia notes children who act out sexually should be held accountable but also get treatment, stating “all children deserve a chance to grow up and move on with their lives.”

The law offices of David Jay Glassman in Philadelphia represents juveniles and others accused of sex crimes. Call for a consultation about the facts of your case.