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Megan's Law registration in Pennsylvania

A previous blog post discussed the consequences of a child pornography conviction in Pennsylvania. Photographing, filming and possessing child pornography are prohibited by both federal and Pennsylvania state law. A conviction related to child pornography carries not only a social stigma but also serious legal consequences, including a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Pennsylvania law also requires certain sex offenders to comply with Megan's Law registration. Sex offenders must register with the Pennsylvania State Police Department for either ten years or for life. Those who must register for ten years have committed crimes such as the possession of obscene materials depicting a minor, child sexual abuse and luring a child into a motor vehicle. Life registration is reserved for offenders who have two or more convictions qualifying for ten-year registration, rape and those considered sexually violent predators.

Registrants must provide personal information including their name, date of birth, home and employment address, license plate number, physical description and photos, any identification marks such as tattoos, a description of the offense and the date of conviction. Communities must also be notified when those deemed sexually violent predators move into an area. Those convicted of possession of child pornography are not typically classified as sexually violent predators, however Pennsylvania courts have held that those convicted of multiple offenses related to sexual abuse of a child based on child pornography charges may be enough to require registration.

The registry information is made available through the internet as a means of public protection. Failure to register as a sex offender violates Pennsylvania law as well as the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Violators may be subject to up to ten years' imprisonment. Those falsely accused of a child pornography offense may be able to claim some legal defenses to avoid imprisonment and mandatory Megan's Law registration; they will be discussed in a future post.

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