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Tougher Sex Offender Legislation Signed into Law, Says Toohil
12/20/2011
HARRISBURG – Legislation that closes loopholes in Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law and brings the Commonwealth into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law today by Gov. Tom Corbett, said state Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne). Toohil, a strong supporter of the legislation, attended the bill-signing ceremony at the State Capitol.

“As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I worked with the chairman, Representative Ron Marsico, in authoring an amendment that closes dangerous loopholes in Megan’s Law that have been in existence for several years, threatening the safety of the Commonwealth’s children. I am extremely pleased the legislation has finally become law,” said Toohil.



The new law requires all out-of-state offenders who relocate to Pennsylvania to register their change of address, place of employment and school attendance with the state police or face criminal penalties. The measure also requires homeless sexual offenders to register as transients every 30 days with the state police at approved registration sites and be photographed. In addition, he/she must provide information on his/her whereabouts, such as parks, public buildings, restaurants and libraries. Prior to passage of the new law, out-of-state and homeless sex offenders could not be penalized for failing to register.

A sexual offender who fails to register faces a third-degree felony. A second offense is graded as a second-degree felony. Failure to provide accurate information to authorities is graded as a second-degree felony.

A sexually violent predator who fails to register commits a second-degree felony. A second offense is graded as first-degree felony. A sexually-violent predator who fails to provide accurate information faces a first-degree felony.

The legislation also broadens state law by making it a crime for a teacher, other employee or volunteer at a school or children’s center to have sexual contact with a student. The offense of institutional sexual assault is graded as a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.
Enacted in 1995, Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law requires all convicted sex offenders and sexually violent predators who live, attend school or are employed within the state to register with the state police. The agency also maintains an Internet website, PAMegansLaw.state.pa.us, to allow the public to access information about registrants.

The legal loophole was discovered last year when the Superior Court ruled in two cases that transient and out-of-state sex offenders are not required to register under Megan’s Law and cannot be prosecuted for intentionally failing to register. Out-of-state offenders who face a lifetime registration in their home state were not required to register in Pennsylvania under the old law.

The provisions regarding out-of-state offenders under Megan’s Law take effect immediately. The provisions regarding transients and institutional sexual assault are effective in 60 days.

The legislation signed by the governor also brings Pennsylvania into compliance with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which is a federal law developed to ensure every state has the same set of comprehensive standards in order to strengthen the nationwide network of sex offender registration and notification programs.

In keeping with the dictates of the Adam Walsh Act, the new law: 

        • Places offenders in a three-tiered system depending upon the severity of the offense. 
          Individuals convicted of a: Tier I offense must register for 15 years; Tier II offense 
          must register for 25 years; and Tier III offense must register for life. 

        • Requires sex offenders in each tier to appear in person to be photographed and to 
          verify and update information in the state sexual offender registry. Sexual offenders in 
          the three tiers are required to appear annually (Tier I), every six months (Tier II) or 
          every 90 days (Tier III). 

        • Requires that after a sex offender registers or updates registration in the sexual 
          offender registry, notification be provided to law enforcement, probation and parole, 
          schools and social service agencies responsible for protecting children. 

        • Authorizes the Pennsylvania State Police to launch a new feature on the sexual 
          offenders website that will enable members of the general public to obtain information 
          on sex offenders for any given ZIP code or geographic radius.

The provisions regarding the Adam Walsh Act are effective in one year.

“This is an important day for the children of Pennsylvania,” said Toohil. “For far too long out-of-state, transient and homeless sex offenders have gone unreported in our communities. Today, with the signing of these laws, our children are protected by these safeguards”.

State Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: 
Rep. Toohil’s Office
717.260.6136
RepToohil.com
Facebook.com/RepToohil
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