In 2012, Pennsylvania modified its law requiring sex offenders to register with the state. That statute called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), expanded reporting requirements significantly.

According to, SORNA requires sex offenders to register with the state for longer periods of time than the previous statute—depending on the crime, either 15 years, 25 years, or for life. Before SORNA’s 2012 passage, sex offenders were required to register for either 10 years or life. After they completed their sentences and were on the registry for 10 years, those who were required only to register for 10 years were dropped off the registry.

The 2012 law also requires sex offenders to make scheduled appearances before the state police and increases the amount of information about the offender that is public. The new law allows crime victims to receive notifications about the status and whereabouts of their offenders at all times, including whether they move residences or change jobs.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Recently Struck Down Part of the New Law

Lawmakers wrote the law to apply retroactively, even if an offender’s crime and conviction occurred well before the passage of the new law. Because the new law imposed a longer minimum period of being on the sex offender registry, many sex offenders who had dropped off the registry after their 10 years on the list were required to re-register. They also became subject to the new law’s appearance and information requirements.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently found that it was unconstitutional to apply the 2012 law retroactively. Therefore, the more recent state law could not be enforced against offenders convicted before the passage of SORNA in 2012. This means the time periods required for registration, as well as the reporting and information requirements under SORNA, don’t apply to pre-SORNA convictions.

According to one national news outlet, in 2017 Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry lists nearly 22,000 persons—more than 11,000 of whom are required to register for life. It is not clear how many registrants will be affected by the ruling, but the Collateral Consequences Resource Center says that thousands of previous 10-year registrants were reclassified in 2012 as life registrants under SORNA. People affected by SORNA and by the court’s reversal of its retroactive application should consult an attorney to determine the impact on their rights.

Call the Zeiger Firm Today for a Free Consultation with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

Clearly, the passage of SORNA and the recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have dramatic impacts for many registrants on the state sex offender registry. If you believe you are affected in some way by the state Supreme Court decision, you should seek legal representation. Discussing your options and rights with a skilled criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with recent changes in the law can ensure that your rights are not violated or that you incur unnecessarily harsh penalties for your past conviction. Contact the Zeiger Firm for more information at (215) 546-0340 or via our online contact form.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.