Loophole in Sex Offender Registry Law Targeted by Lawmakers

Deanna Garcia November 8, 2011

District Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania are urging state lawmakers to close loophole that allows some sex offenders to go without registering.

Megan’s Law requires sex offenders to register, but Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed said that the bill doesn’t specifically apply to offenders without a fixed address or offenders from out-of-state.  

“The larger problem is, we’re becoming a haven for out-of-state sex offenders because they know they can live here, even if they’re out of registration in their home state. They can live here and not be prosecuted here because they know the loophole exists,” said Freed.

Freed said that he’s seen cases in Cumberland County in which a sex offender suspected of an assault could be charged with failing to register in Pennsylvania under Megan’s Law, but those charges had to be dropped, giving police one less tool to detain an offender while they investigate a possible crime.

“Just the way it’s been interpreted by our state court has rendered the failure to register of people who were homeless or transient, or failure to register of people who were out of state. Those sections of law are ineffective based on the way they were written,” said Freed.

Legislation to fix the loophole has passed the state House with unanimous approval. 

A Senate GOP spokesman says that his caucus is reviewing the bill and may try to combine it with necessary changes to sex offender registration that are mandated by federal law.  If passed by the chamber, the plan to close the loophole could be sent to the governor by the end of the year.