Pennsylvania Toughens Up on Sex Offenses

In 2006, the federal government enacted the Adam Walsh Act, which called for a uniform and centralized system of tracking convicted sex offenders. States had five years to align themselves with the federal requirements or risk losing 10 percent of federal criminal justice grants. Pennsylvania recently enacted changes to its laws to conform to the Adam Walsh Act, but the Justice Department has yet to give its final approval to Pennsylvania's changes.

The new state law enacted in 2012 will impact those convicted, and even those merely accused, of sex crimes. First, it expands the list of qualifying sexual offenses requiring registration as a sex offender. Those required to register must provide more information than before, including a DNA sample, finger and palm prints, as well as passport and vehicle information. All offenders will be required to register in person and will be photographed more often to keep up with changing physical appearances.

Pennsylvania registration categories will range from ten years all the way up to life. Under certain circumstances, there are now categories that require registration for 15 and 25 years which did not exist prior to this new law. Juveniles convicted of serious sexual offenses will also be added to the registry, but only law enforcement will have access to their photographs and personal information.

Unlike before, registered sex offenders relocating to Pennsylvania from out of state will now be required to register in Pennsylvania. This was in direct response to concern over the Penn State scandal and the fear of Pennsylvania being seen as a safe haven for those hoping to avoid registration requirements. Additionally, homeless offenders must now register as "transient" and check in every 30 days to provide information about their whereabouts.

Under Pennsylvania's new law, sexual contact with a child by a teacher, volunteer or other employee at a school or daycare is now a separate crime-institutional sex assault. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of seven years and a $15,000 fine.

These harsh changes will have a significant impact on those convicted of sexual offenses and even those simply accused of them. Because the stakes have been raised even higher in sex crimes cases, it is crucial that one has an aggressive defense attorney to protect their rights. If you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual offense, contact an experienced attorney specializing in sex crimes to discuss your situation and your options.