State Supreme Court ruling could mean multiple sex offenders taken off registry

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling could mean the removal of multiple sex offenders from the state's registry.

The State Supreme Court recently ruled that a law passed in 2012 is not retroactive. That law is known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, and expanded and toughened reporting rules for sex offenders.

SORNA requires sex offenders to register with the state for either 15 years, 25 years, or for life, depending on the crime and prison term. The law applies even if the sex offender was found guilty of the crime before SORNA was put in place.

But the State Supreme Court ruled that was unconstitutional.

Jennifer Storm, the victim advocate for the Commonwealth, said, "An individual filed an appeal based on his belief that the retroactive application of what is known as SORNA, the Sex Offender Notification Act, was unconstitutional. The courts agreed."

Storm said the ruling could have devastating consequences for victims, with more sex offenders possibly appealing their cases.

Storm said, "This could potentially mean a lot more sex offenders are going to come off the registry. What that means for crime victims in Pennsylvania is that they will no longer get the notifications that my office sends on a consistent basis."

SORNA also requires sex offenders to make in-person appearances with state police and expands the information made public about them. Crime victims can receive notifications on the status and whereabouts of their offenders at all times, which Storm said can give them peace of mind.

"So that means that they get to know what their home location is, the make and model of their vehicle, they get updated photos of the offender, if the offender changes employment the victim gets notified," she said.

She added this ruling can impact thousands of victims, with 4,000 registered.

"And once again we're sitting here with the thought of having to make all these calls to thousands of survivors to say the criminal justice system has tilted once again in the direction of the offender and you have no right of recourse. And it's very frustrating," she said.

A spokesperson with state police said they are in the process of assessing the impact of the State Supreme Court decision and are developing an appropriate course of action. As of now, it's too early to estimate the number of registrations that will be removed.