McMahon Comments that Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") Statute as Applied to Juveniles May Fail Constitutional Scrutiny on Review

Should the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agree with three recent Pennsylvania lower court judicial opinions that the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") as applied to child sex offenders violates the juveniles' Constitutional Due Process rights, advocates for a juvenile justice system focused on the rehabilitation and treatment of children will have won a big victory.

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McMahon

"If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides that "SORNA" as applied to child offenders is Constitutional, the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system, historically designed to focus on the rehabilitation of children will have taken a giant step backward."

Norristown, PA (PRWEB) May 28, 2014

Earlier this month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral argument on the legal issue of whether the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Registration Notification Act ("SORNA") enacted in 2012, which mandates up to lifetime registration for certain child sex offenders is constitutional in its broad application to juveniles (In re B.J., a minor, 87 MAP 2013).

How the Court ultimately decides this issue will drastically affect juvenile offenders, many of whom now have lifetime sexual registration requirements even without there being any required judicial finding of a sexual predatory disorder or likely recidivism under the statute.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted an expedited appeal of a York County Common Pleas case after Senior Judge John C. Uhler in late 2013, held that that the "SORNA" statute as applied to juvenile sex offenders violates the juveniles' Due Process rights under the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions (In re B.J., a minor, et. al, CP-67-JV-0000726-2010).

Judge Uhler's holding is based in part on his conclusion that the statute is premised on a fundamentally flawed, non-rebuttable presumption of a child sex offender's future dangerousness, which is contrary to an extensive body of empirical, statistical evidence. As a result, Judge Uhler found that the statute's mandatory registration and notification requirements unlawfully infringe upon a juvenile's Constitutional right of reputation.

Judge Uhler's decision was followed by two other Pennsylvania Common Pleas judges several months later, in Monroe County and Lancaster County, who also ruled that "SORNA" violates Due Process and is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, in its application to juveniles (In re B.B., et.al., CP-45-JV-248-2012 Jan.16, 2014 (Pa .Ct. Comm. Pl. Monroe) (Op. J. Patti-Worthington); In re W.E. et al., CP-36-JV-1085-2008, Feb. 11, 2014, Pa. Ct. Comm. Pl. Lancaster) (Op. J. Workman).

Whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agrees still remains to be seen. It is expected that a decision will not be handed down by the Court for many months.

McMahon, a well-known trial lawyer from Norristown, Pennsylvania commented, "If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides that "SORNA" as applied to child offenders is Constitutional, the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system, historically designed to focus on the rehabilitation of children will have taken a giant step backward."

John I. McMahon, Jr., Esquire, a former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania prosecutor, is managing partner at the law firm of McMahon, McMahon and Lentz, with offices in Norristown, Pennsylvania, who regularly provides legal commentary for the media in high profile criminal cases.


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