McMahon Comments on Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Holding That Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act ('SORNA") Is Unlawful as Applied to Juveniles

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The split decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week to strike down the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") as unconstitutional in its application to juveniles means that a large classification of juvenile sexual offenders will no longer be required to register for life as sexual offenders with the Pennsylvania State Police. In re B.J., a minor, 87 MAP 2013

It is no surprise that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down ("SORNA") on due process grounds based on the statute's unfounded premise that juvenile sexual offenders are not amenable to rehabilitation but will likely commit future sexual offenses.

In its pronouncement on December 29, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that juvenile sexual offenders are not necessarily likely to commit future sexual offenses and may be rehabilitated through treatment, contrary to the irrebuttable presumption contained within the ("SORNA") statute that its designated class of juvenile offenders are always likely to sexually re-offend. 42 Pa C.S. Sec. 9799.15(a)(4). This important conclusion of the Court was its basis for declaring that the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender and Notification Act ("SORNA") as applied to juvenile sexual offenders violates the juveniles' Constitutional due process rights. U.S. CONST. amend. XIV Sect. 1. The Court pointed out that ("SORNA") does not afford sexual offenders the opportunity of a hearing to rebut the statute's irrebuttable presumption. Additionally, its decision cited extensive research studies relied upon by the lower court that indicated that recidivism rates for juvenile sex offenders are far lower than the recidivism rates of adult sexual offenders. In re: J.B., a minor, et al., No. CP-67-JV-726-2010 (CP York Nov. 1. 2013) ("Tr. Ct. Op.").    Juvenile sexual offenders in Pennsylvania whose sexual offenses fell within the purview of ("SORNA") will now no longer be required to register with the Pennsylvania State Police which would also automatically trigger inclusion of the juvenile on the National Sexual Offender Registry. 42 U.S.C. Sect. 16911(8). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's recent holding seems consistent with the statutory policy objective of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act which is grounded on the treatment and rehabilitation of children who violate the law. 42 Pa. C.S. Sect. 6301. McMahon, a well-known trial lawyer from Norristown, Pennsylvania commented that "it is no surprise that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down ("SORNA") on due process grounds based on its unfounded premise that juvenile sexual offenders are not amenable to rehabilitation but will likely commit future sexual offenses." John I. McMahon, Jr., Esquire, is a former Montgomery County prosecutor and managing partner at the law firm of McMahon, McMahon and Lentz, Norristown, Pennsylvania who regularly provides legal commentary to the media in a high profile criminal cases.

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John I. McMahon, Jr.
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