Sex offenses carry perhaps the worst stigma of any type of criminal act. Sex offenses involve violation of another person who may be, in many cases, a minor. Pennsylvania has strict laws regarding a wide array of sex offenses and these laws set out harsh penalties for anyone convicted of a sex offense. Many of these penalties are standard consequences of criminal conviction and include time in jail or prison, fines, probation, and more. One consequence that is unique to sexual offenses is that many offenders are required to sign up with the sex offender registry maintained by the Pennsylvania State Police.
Why is registration required?
In 1994, seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a neighbor who had prior convictions for sex offenses on his criminal record. Megan’s parents did not know that the neighbor posed a potential threat to their child due to his criminal past. In response to this particular crime and in an effort to protect people in the community from multiple offenders, New Jersey was the first state to pass a statute known as “Megan’s Law,” which required the police to maintain a registry that provided public information regarding individuals convicted of sexually-related crimes. The federal legislature adopted a similar law in 1996 and Pennsylvania enacted its own Megan’s Law that created our state’s sex offender registry.
Sex offender registry has many consequences
Being ordered to register as a sex offender can have many effects on almost every aspect of your life. First, you have to register and regularly report any changes in pertinent information, including your address, place of employment, and more. This is similar to being on probation except it can last much longer and often for the rest of your life.
Once your information is on the registry, it is available for anyone with an internet connection to discover. This information can include the following:
- Year of birth
- Type of sex crime convictions
- Physical description
- Race and ethnicity
- Scars, marks, and tattoos
- Home address
- Employment or school address
- Vehicle information
As you can imagine, having all of that information available to friends, family, neighbors, potential employers, or even potential romantic partners can lead to serious complications. Many sex offenders get turned away from housing, jobs, or other opportunities because of the information publicly displayed on the sex offender registry. In more severe cases, registered sex offenders have been harassed, ostracized, or even attacked by members of the community. Additionally, though Pennsylvania has no statewide residency restrictions for sex offenders, many counties have local laws limiting where sex offenders can live. The courts have ruled that these restrictions cannot be too severe, however, many still exist.
These consequences are long-lasting, as many people have to continue to register even if they only had one conviction decades before. Registering as a sex offender can affect you in many ways for possibly the rest of your life.
Avoiding sex offender convictions
The best way to avoid the consequences of sex offender registration is to avoid any convictions for sexual offenses. There are many legal defenses that may be presented in a sex offense case to prevent wrongful conviction and some examples are as follows:
- Mistaken identity – the police arrested the wrong person.
- Alibi – you were somewhere else at the time of the offense and could not have committed the crime.
- Violations of your constitutional rights – if the police officers violated your 4th or 5th Amendment rights, any resulting evidence may be excluded, which can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case.
- Mental state – you were unable to understand the criminal nature of your actions.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will evaluate the circumstances involved in your case to identify which legal defenses may be available to help you avoid conviction and the related penalties.
Contact an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney for assistance with your case
If you are facing any type of sex crime charges, it is absolutely imperative that you have the highest quality of representation by a skilled criminal defense attorney who understands that criminal justice system in Philadelphia. At The Zeiger Firm, we understand how much a criminal conviction—especially for a sex offense—can affect all aspects of your life and, therefore, we always provide an aggressive defense when necessary to avoid wrongful conviction. If you have been arrested, call 215-546-0340 to discuss your case with qualified defense lawyer Brian Zeiger today.