The PA Commonwealth Court recently held that because Petitioner’s ten-year registration period should have expired sometime in 2008 and there were no allegations that he committed any new sexual offenses since his 1991 Texas conviction and he successfully completed his registration period prior to the December 2012 effective date of the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), he was not subject to the lifetime reporting requirements under SORNA. T.L. Jackson v. Commonwealth of PA, 388 M.D. 2014 (PA Cmmwlth July 7, 2016).


In October 1990, Jackson was charged with violation of Texas law involving Indecency with a Child by Contact. On or about April 12, 1991, Jackson pleaded guilty to one count of Indecency with a Child by Contact and was sentenced to ten years’ probation. In May 1993, Jackson violated his probation by failing, inter alia, to report to the probation office and pay court costs. He was subsequently resentenced to ten years imprisonment, for which he served five years in prison and the remaining five years on parole. Jackson was discharged from all supervision on January 15, 2003.

Pursuant to Texas’ version of Megan’s Law, Jackson registered as a sexual offender in the State of Texas in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Jackson moved to the State of Delaware in 2002 where he was likewise required to register as a sexual offender, and then moved to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in June 2004. By the time he moved to Pennsylvania, Jackson had been registering as a sex offender in his previous states of residence for approximately six years.

When Jackson moved to Pennsylvania in 2004, Megan’s Law II was in effect and Jackson’s Texas conviction for Indecency with a Child by Contact required him to register with the PSP for ten years. In 2008, Jackson requested a review of his sexual offender registration status to which the PSP responded that his period of registration began on June 25, 2004, when he ostensibly first registered with the PSP after moving to Pennsylvania, and would run until June 25, 2014.

Subsequently, SORNA was enacted on December 20, 2011 and went into effect a year later, establishing a three-tier classification system for sexual offenders. Accordingly, on or about December 3, 2012, the PSP notified Jackson that pursuant to [the new] SORNA, he was now classified as a Tier III offender and would have to register quarterly every year for the rest of his life.

Jackson is no longer on probation or parole for his Texas conviction and was still registering with the PSP as a sexual offender pursuant to SORNA.

In his Petition, Jackson asked the Commonwealth Court to direct the PSP to remove his name from the list of offenders required to comply with the provisions of the Act known as Megan’s Law IV or “SORNA” because he completed his registration period prior to the law’s enactment or, in the alternative, hold that the application of SORNA to his case violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.


Whether the PSP’s decision not to credit Jackson for the approximately six years he spent registering out-of-state is arbitrary and not reasonably related to the object of the Commonwealth’s sex offender legislation and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution?


Jackson successfully completed his registration period prior to SORNA’s effective date in December 2012 and he was not subject to the act. Therefore, the PSP erred in mandating that he continue to register as a sexual offender under SORNA.

Jackson is no longer required to register as a sexual offender.


Because Jackson was convicted of an offense similar to an enumerated Pennsylvania Megan’s Law predicate offense, he was required to register as a sex offender with the PSP for ten years. If Jackson is not given credit for the time he registered out of state, his ten-year period of required registration under Megan’s Law II would not have expired until 2014. SORNA states that individuals “who had not fulfilled [their] period of registration as of December 20, 2012” were subject to its provisions, including the lifetime registration requirement. Accordingly, Jackson would fall under this provision of SORNA because he had not completed his ten-year period of registration prior to December 20, 2012, unless he was unconstitutionally denied credit for the years he registered in other states.

Jackson argued that even if he was subject to SORNA, its application to him violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Specifically, he asserted that as an out-of-state offender, he was being treated differently than Pennsylvania offenders because SORNA does not provide credit for time spent registering in another jurisdiction, requiring him to thereby register for a longer period of time than an individual who committed his predicate offenses in the Commonwealth.

As the Commonwealth Court framed it, the question was whether there a rational basis for requiring Jackson to register for a lifetime when a Pennsylvania offender who committed the same act, on the same day, and who registered for ten years with the PSP was not subject to a lifetime registration requirement under SORNA because he was considered to have completed his registration period prior to the law’s enactment. To put it even more simply, the Commonwealth Court framed the question as whether there was a rational basis for this difference in registration requirements based solely on the fact that Jackson’s offense occurred in another state.

The PA Supreme Court previously held that the General Assembly’s purpose in enacting the respective Megan’s Law reporting statutes was not retribution, but to protect public safety. In carrying out that purpose, the General Assembly in Megan’s Law II classified individuals differently based on their perceived potential danger to the community. Specifically, sexually violent predators were required to register for their lifetime whereas individuals who were convicted of lesser offenses, referred to as merely sexual offenders, were only required to register for ten years.

The Commonwealth Court noted that Jackson was classified a sexual offender when he moved to Pennsylvania in 2004 and the PSP even admitted that he was only required to register for ten years. Further, the Commonwealth Court assumed then that the PSP did not consider Jackson to pose the same risk to the citizens of the Commonwealth as individuals classified as sexually violent predators who were required to register for life. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Court concluded that because Pennsylvania sexual offenders who completed their ten-year registration period before SORNA was enacted are not required to register for the rest of their lives, requiring Jackson to now register for the rest of his life under SORNA and not count all the years that he has registered in other states, merely because his offense was committed in another state, is not reasonably related to enhancing public safety and welfare.


DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the Courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney.