The PA Superior Court has recently decided the case of Commonwealth v. Sauers, No. 3123 EDA 2015 (March 29, 2017), holding that it was error for the trial court to impose a lifetime sex offender registration reporting requirement for the defendant, who was a first-time offender of possessing child pornography.

After an investigation revealed child pornography on his computer, Sauers was charged with ten counts of possession of child pornography, ten counts of dissemination of child pornography, and one count of criminal use of a communications facility. Following a more in-depth examination of unallocated space of Sauers’ computer, police found an additional eighty-seven files containing child pornography. Consequently, Sauers was charged under a separate docket with eighty-seven counts of possession of child pornography. The cases were joined for trial.

A jury convicted Sauers on all eleven counts on the first docket, and it acquitted him of the eighty-seven counts on the second docket. The trial court sentenced Sauers to incarceration for an aggregate term of 60 to 120 months. Additionally, the trial court designated Sauers as a Tier III sexual offender and directed his compliance with the lifetime reporting requirements of the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). Sauers filed post-sentence motions, which the trial court denied. Sauers then filed a timely appeal, raising a number of issues which were ultimately rejected by the Superior Court.

However, the Superior Court also addressed the trial court’s designation of Sauers as a Tier III sexual offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), requiring a lifetime registration. In evaluating this issue, the Superior Court looked to the PA Supreme Court’s recent decision in Commonwealth v. Lutz- Morrison, 143 A.3d 891 (Pa. 2016). According to the Lutz-Morrison Court, SORNA implicates the recidivist philosophy, requiring an action, a conviction, and a subsequent act to trigger lifetime registration for multiple offenses otherwise subject to a fifteen or twenty-five-year registration period.

Accordingly, because Sauer was a first-time offender, the Superior Court concluded that it was constrained to vacate the lifetime registration portion of Sauers’ sentence and remand for re-sentencing under SORNA.


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