New law requires police to distribute sex offender data
PENNSYLVANIA–The Governor signed into law in late October a bill that will require persons convicted of sex offenses against children to register their addresses with the state police. Police in turn must disclose that information to neighbors of the sex offender.
The law mirrors one passed in 1994 by the New Jersey legislature in response to the rape and murder of a 7-year-old New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, by a sex offender who lived across the street from her family. The girl’s parents did not know the offender lived nearby.
The legislation was drafted to address constitutional issues raised by challenges to the law in New Jersey, whose high court has ruled that registration of offenders is a proper exercise of state police power and provides defendants due process under the U.S. Constitution.
“Megan’s Law,” as the legislation has been named, requires any person convicted of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault or spousal sexual assault where the victim is a minor to register his or her address with the Pennsylvania State Police for ten years following release from prison.
State police are required to notify police in the area where the offender will reside within 72 hours of the offender’s release. Local police in turn are required to notify past victims of the offender, neighbors, schools, day care centers, colleges and universities. The statute leaves the definition of “neighbor” to the discretion of local police.
Every 90 days police will verify the residence information, and offenders must inform state police of any subsequent address changes. A failure to notify under the law is a felony. (1995 Pa. Laws 024)