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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: July 25, 2017 02:20 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Sex Offender Registration Amendment
As the prime sponsor of the bill that became Act 24 of 1995, commonly known as “Megan’s Law,” I have always been committed to protecting children from sexual assault. In order to protect our children, we require sex offenders to register with the Pennsylvania State Police, which posts photographs and other information about these convicted offenders on a publicly available Web site. The sex offender registry undoubtedly attaches a stigma to these offenders that affects their daily lives. We have, however, deemed that stigma to be justified by the safety that it affords our children and families.

An investigative reporter recently discovered, however, that one offense currently designated for sex offender registration ensnares Pennsylvanians who have committed no sexual offense at all. At least 34 people are on the sex offender registry as a consequence of their conviction for “interference with custody of children.” This offense frequently arises when parents argue about the custody of their children, and one of them violates a custody order of the court. Others convicted of this offense stole a car without realizing that a child was in the back seat. Only one other state includes this offense as eligible for sex offender registration, and that state permits an exception for parents of the child.

Of course, these offenders should be held accountable for violating court orders and stealing cars. Including these offenders on the sex offender registry, however, not only carries life-long consequences for the offender but also it dilutes the registry so that it is less clear about which offenders pose a real danger.

I will soon introduce a bill to remove “interference with custody of children” from the list of offenses for which the offender must be included on the sex offender registry. Those who commit the offense will continue to be sentenced as they are now, but they will not be identified as sex offenders because there is simply no evidence that these offenders are engaged in sexual activity of any kind.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation to correct an unintended consequence and strengthen the sex offender registry as a tool to protect children.

Introduced as SB854