• Names being removed from sex offender registry

    Pennsylvania State Police have started the process for removing as many as 5,000 ex-offenders from the Megan’s Law registry under a state supreme court mandate and a new law.

    Shaquana Green appeared at a Pennsylvania State Police barracks last month to update her information as a registered sex offender. It’s an annual chore she has done for the last five years, having landed on the Megan’s Law list after disappearing with her daughter for three hours in violation of a custody order.

    As of this month, though, the name of the 26-year-old Northampton County resident no longer appears on the registry, under a state Supreme Court ruling and a new exemption for parents who had been charged with interfering with custody of children, but no sex crime.

    “I get to have my life,” Green said last week. “This is more than a blessing.”

    Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled retroactive application of the state’s version of the new, tougher Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was unconstitutional. In response, state lawmakers passed House Bill 631, a stop-gap measure to keep up to 12,000 individuals on the registry, but that included an exemption for legal guardians charged with interference with custody of children. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law Feb. 21. The exemption applies to only legal guardians of children, though another bill in the state Senate would remove interference with custody of children as a Megan’s Law offense; Pennsylvania and Louisiana are the only states where the crime is considered a violent sex offense even when no sexual contact occurred.

    Up to 5,000 Pennsylvania residents are expected to be taken off the sex offender registry as a result of the state Supreme Court ruling; as of Monday, nearly 1,000 names had been removed, according to a comparison with the January active offender numbers listed on the state’s Megan’s Law website.

    Green qualified for removal under the parental exemption and because her offense occurred before Dec. 20, 2012, the date when the state’s version of the Walsh Act took effect. The new law increased the registration period for some sex offenses, added new crimes requiring registration including nonsexual ones, and applied the registration requirement retroactively, adding thousands of names to the registry.

    Pennsylvania State Police are in the process of simultaneously reviewing ex-offenders that fall under the pre-Adam Walsh Act implementation and those that qualify for the parental exemption, spokesman Cpl. Adam Reed said. The review process includes examining registration files to make sure there are no other offenses that require registration before a name is removed, Reed said. Letters are sent notifying individuals that they no longer have a registration requirement, he added.

    As of last week, nearly half of the 34 individuals previously identified by this news organization as having no sex crime accusations who were convicted of interference with custody of children have been removed from the registry, including Green, who received her letter the day before Wolf signed House Bill 631.

    “My heart just sank,” she said. “I praised the higher power.”

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