Pa. Court Rules SORNA for Juveniles Unconstitutional

Maynard Law Office, posted in Megan’s Law on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

In early November, York County, Pennsylvania Judge John Ulher ruled that the juvenile sex offender law was unconstitutional under State and Federal Law, in connection with a case that involved seven juvenile sex offenders. The law, which was enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature to comply with the Federal Adam Walsh Act, also known as SORNA, required juvenile sex offenders to be treated the same as adults.

The state law, which was passed in late 2011, was a rushed effort to conform to federal law; otherwise, the state risked losing its federal funding. This law stirred outrage among individuals, from civil rights to juvenile rights activists, as the law completely failed to recognize a juvenile offender’s capacity to rehabilitate and reform. In Judge Ulher’s opinion, he acknowledges the law’s failings in this regard, stating that the law, “unconstitutionally forecloses a court’s considerations of the many unique attributes of youth and juvenile offenders.” In addition, he states:

The court finds that juvenile sex offenders are different than their adult counterparts . . . that the rate of recidivism of juvenile sex offenders is low, that they are likely to have their registration status made public and that they are likely to suffer various forms of irreparable harm as a result of being required to register.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has commented that they are reviewing the matter, and will likely appeal.

In the State of New Jersey, SORNA has not yet been enacted. Several bills have been introduced before the State Legislature proposing New Jersey’s compliance with the Adam Walsh Act; however, none of the bills have proven to gain much traction.

If you have a pending Megan’s Law issues, contact an attorney at our firm.

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  1. […] courts are beginning to catch onto the now available science on recidivism statistics.  In a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, the court found that SORNA was unconstitutional as applied to juveniles as the recidivism […]

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