By Jennifer Harr
The registration provisions of the Adam Walsh Act kick in today, requiring additional reporting time for some, and new registration for others.
Signed last year to strengthen the existing Megan’s Law reporting and other requirements for sex offenders, the new act bases how long offenders have to report on a tiered system, adds new offenses for which people must report and in some cases, will require those already sentenced – and not covered under Megan’s Law – to undergo an assessment and being reporting addresses to state police.
Fayette County Assistant District Attorney Linda Cordaro, who acts as the county’s sex assault prosecutor, said there are many changes, all aimed at protecting potential victims. Included among them are a tiered system that puts offenses into three categories.
The lowest reporting time is for the first tier, and is 15 years. That tier includes charges like unlawful restraint of a minor, luring a child to a motor vehicle, indecent assault and interference with custody of children.
Tier two offenses require a 25-year registration, and include institutional sexual assault, promoting prostitution of a minor, sexual abuse of children. Tier three registrants do so for life, and have been convicted of offenses like kidnapping and rape.
Under Megan’s Law, offenses were divided into two categories, requiring either 10-year or lifetime registration.
The 10-year registrants who are still within their registration period will be reclassified under the Adam Walsh Act, and their reporting time will retroactively increase dependent upon what tier they fit into, Cordaro said.
“If a person has been convicted or has pleaded guilty to an offense that required registration under Megan’s Law, and are still under the supervision of the court, and they haven’t successfully completed their super or incarceration, then they are going to fall under the requirements of the Adam Walsh registration, which is a lengthier registration period,” she said.
Uniontown attorney Thomas W. Shaffer recently argued a motion to have a client who pleaded no contest to indecent assault removed from probation so that his client was not retroactively forced into registration under the Adam Walsh Act.
The man, sentenced to one year probation in February, was previously not required to register under Megan’s Law, a provision specifically noted in his plea deal, Shaffer said.
However, the man received notice that he was going to have to register under Adam Walsh, a move Shaffer contended is a constitutional violation.
He said that retroactively increasing registration time – or forcing someone to register who previously did not have to – is tantamount to punishing someone twice for the same crime, and precluded.
“This act is penal, it’s not procedural,” Shaffer said.