SORNA Held Unconstitutional in Pennsylvania

ANNA P. SAMMONS –  A court calling the sex offender registry “an overbroad, suffocating net“? Is this the beginning of the end of the registry? No, of course not. But it’s does offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps there is someroom in our system for some forward movement toward more rational sex offense laws.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania remanded a case back to the trial courts for the judge in the case to analyze SORNA’s constitutionality. On August 23, 2022, the court handed down a decision. “No,” the court said. SORNA is not constitutional “as a legislative scheme,” and it is unconstitutional as applied to the defendant.

The court starts by examining SORNA’s irrebuttable presumption that all sex offenders, regardless of their personal characteristics and circumstances, have a high risk of reoffending sexually. That presumption is not consititutional, the Court concludes, because it is empirically false. The vast majority of sex offenders do not reoffend sexually.

The court also considered a separate question– whether the sex offender registry constituted criminal punishment. The court found it does. And because it constitutes criminal punishment, it’s punitive nature offends Apprendi; results in a criminal sentence in excess of the statutory maximums; violates Federal and State proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment; and breaches the separation of powers doctrine.

I was curious about the judge, the Honorable Allison Bell Royer. A registered Republican, she has a degree in Government, used to run her own law firm, has previously practiced criminal defense and is apparently a member of the Chester County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

2 thoughts on “SORNA Held Unconstitutional in Pennsylvania

  • January 22, 2023 at 5:58 am

    WOW! Finally a judge willing to stand up and say the Emperor has no clothes on. Not only that but also that his underwear is filthy. Anyone with common sense has known from the beginning that these laws are unconstitutional. I’ve read case law where other judges even eluded to that fact, but it appears that it takes a DAR to admit it. Like any other problem that needs repair, we must first admit that we have a problem. It’s one tiny step. But let us hope it eventually becomes a stampede.

  • January 21, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    A chink in the armor! A little at a time, with continued educational information given to Judges and legislators across the US, the registry will be eventually rendered a poor way to treat another human being, and be reserved for only the worst of the worst offenders.


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