Can You Avoid Registration Requirements as a Sex Offender in Pennsylvania?

The sex offender registry is a frightening prospect. Registered sex offenders face great difficulty after incarceration, and many hope to somehow avoid registration requirements.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is a federal law that all states must abide by. As of 2012, the law imposed harsh minimum registration requirements that states had to adopt into their existing registration laws. For as long as the registry has existed, defendants have hoped to avoid it. Once convicted, it is nearly impossible to avoid registration requirements under SORNA. Arguably, the best way to avoid registration is to hire a lawyer, fight your charges, and avoid a conviction. Under very specific circumstances, it might be possible for certain convicted defendants to avoid registration, but you should speak to an attorney to make sure. Certain elements of SORNA were recently found unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. What this means for registrants remains to be seen, but more defendants might avoid registration requirements in the future.

If you are facing charges for sexual offenses, call our Pennsylvania sexual offense lawyers immediately at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (215) 372-8667 for a free case review.

Sex Offender Registration Requirements Under SORNA in Pennsylvania

All convicted sex offenders are required to register under SORNA. Pennsylvania had registration requirements under Megan’s Law, enacted in 1995, and SORNA introduced federally mandated minimum requirements in 2012.

SORNA is not the same as Megan’s Law. However, it does require states to enforce a harsher set of minimum registration standards and notification requirements. As of 2012, new federal registration requirements under SORNA were applied to all 50 states. In Pennsylvania, the new SORNA requirements were merged with the existing Megan’s Law.

Now, in Pennsylvania, convicted sex offenders have different registration requirements based on a 3-tiered system. Tier 1 offenders must register as sex offenders for 15 years. Tier 2 offenders must register for 25 years. Tier 3 offenders must register for life.

Exactly which tier a particular offender falls under is based on the crime for which they were convicted. Offenders convicted before 2012, when the new tier system was implemented, must register according to previous rules under Megan’s Law.

Potentially Avoiding Registration as a Sex Offender in Pennsylvania

Avoiding registration requirements after being convicted of a sexual offense would be incredibly difficult and unlikely. Under SORNA, all convicted sex offenders must register for 15 years, 25 years, or life. Even some juvenile offenders must register. Failure to register will result in very harsh criminal penalties, and you should not try to avoid registration requirements if the courts have imposed them.

As discussed in more detail below, there have been major challenges to SORNA here in Pennsylvania. What this means for current and future registrants remains to be seen.

Your best bet to avoid registration requirements is to avoid a conviction. Only certain crimes are eligible for registration. While the list of eligible offenses is quite long, you can avoid registration requirements if you can avoid a conviction for the eligible crimes you are charged with.

For example, suppose a defendant is facing a total of 5 different charges, only 1 of which makes them eligible to register as a sex offender. In that case, they would only need to be found not guilty of the one eligible offense to avoid registration requirements.

Your best bet is to speak with an experienced attorney who knows how to handle cases involving sexual offenses. Sex offenses are not met with much sympathy or understanding, and many defendants feel as if they have been convicted before they even get a trial. Our Pennsylvania sexual offense attorneys will stand up for you, protect your rights, and help you avoid a conviction that would lead to registration as a sex offender.

People Who Might Not Have to Register as Sex Offenders Under SORNA in Pennsylvania

In Commonwealth v Muniz, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the retroactivity of SORNA violated the state constitution. Originally, SORNA applied to all convicted offenders, even those convicted before SORNA took effect. Now, only those convicted after SORNA kicked in must register under SORNA.

If convicted of certain offenses before December 20, 2012, you might be a 10-year registrant in Pennsylvania. This is part of the old registration requirements before SORNA. If your 10 years are up, you no longer must register, even if you would otherwise have to continue registering under current SORNA requirements.

Challenges to SORNA Sex Offender Registration Requirements in Pennsylvania

In the case of Commonwealth v. George Torsilieri, a judge in Chester County held that certain elements of SORNA are unconstitutional.

The court held that SORNA imposes an irrebuttable presumption that convicted sex offenders will re-offend. The court went on to say that this presumption could not possibly be universally applicable to all convicted defendants. As such, many defendants who are unlikely to ever re-offend are treated as if reoffending is a certainty. This presumption ultimately sets up many defendants for extreme and unfair disadvantages that come with being a registered sex offender.

The court next tackled SORNA’s punitive elements. Since being a registered sex offender is considered part of the defendant’s punishment, the law runs afoul of Constitutional requirements that punishments must be proportional to crimes.

In short, people are often required to register for much longer than the maximum sentences allowed by law.

The court also mentioned that SORNA does not comply with Constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Being a registered sex offender can affect a person’s ability to find work, housing, or just be a part of society. Humiliation and public ostracization seem to be inherent elements of SORNA. This is especially problematic for people who must register as sex offenders when the crime they were convicted of was only tenuously connected to sex or otherwise less severe.

While the court in the Torsilieri case found many problems with SORNA, what this means going forward is unclear. As of now, SORNA registration requirements are still in effect. The issue may be decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Until then, it is unlikely you will be able to avoid registration requirements. As such, you should speak to an attorney about any pending charges you have and how to avoid being convicted.

Call Our Pennsylvania Sexual Offense Attorneys for Help Immediately

Reach out to our Pennsylvania sexual offense attorneys at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates by calling (215) 372-8667 for a free case review.

Related Articles

How Bankruptcy Can Protect You

Filing for bankruptcy is often thought of as a sign of failure. At best, it is seen as a last resort when faced with too many bills, collection letters, or […]

Read More »

Means Testing in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy has many layers. Before filing, a potential debtor will have to gather their bills, bank statements, tax returns, and proof of all household income for the previous six months. […]

Read More »

How to Successfully Dispute Credit Reporting Errors

As per the FACTA amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), American consumers are entitled to one free credit report per a year from each of the three major […]

Read More »

Have an Attorney Review Your Case for Free

Get a Free Case Evaluation

Contact Our Attorneys To Learn How We Can Help Your Case


12 Convenient Locations Across Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Philadelphia, PA

7909 Bustletown Ave, 1st Floor Philadelphia, PA 19152 (215) 607-7478 Get Directions

Quakertown, PA

328 Broad St. Quakertown, PA 18951 (215) 515-6876 Get Directions

Allentown, PA

137 N 5th St. Suite A Allentown, PA 18102 (215) 240-4082 Get Directions

Jenkintown, PA

135 Old York Road Jenkintown, PA 19046 (215) 544-3347 Get Directions

Easton, PA

101 Larry Holmes Dr. #212 Easton, PA 18042 (215) 515-7077 Get Directions

Bala Cynwyd, PA

2 Bala Plaza, Suite 300 Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 (610) 557-3209 Get Directions

Bensalem, PA

3554 Hulmeville Rd, #102 Bensalem, PA 19020 (215) 515-6389 Get Directions

Plymouth Meeting, PA

600 W. Germantown Pike #400 Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 (215) 515-6876 Get Directions

Harrisburg, PA

2225 Sycamore St Harrisburg, PA 17111 (717) 864-8887 Get Directions

Cinnaminson, NJ

909 Route 130 South #202 Cinnaminson, NJ 08077 (609) 796-4344 Get Directions

Hamilton Twp., NJ

100 Horizon Center Blvd., 1st and 2nd Floors Hamilton Township, NJ 08691 (609) 236-8649 Get Directions

Marlton, NJ

10000 Lincoln Drive E One Greentree Centre, Suite 201 Marlton, NJ 08053 (856) 213-2805 Get Directions

Piscataway, NJ

200 Centennial Ave. Suite 200 Piscataway, NJ 08854 (908) 367-7256 Get Directions