In Commonwealth v. Williams, No. 2191 EDA 2016 (Pa. Super. 7/18/2017), the PA Superior Court recently reaffirmed a Judgment of Sentence for Appellant’s failure to report, having found that the penalty provisions of SORNA do not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. The Court also noted that it was precluded from reconsidering whether the registration requirements are punitive but, it encouraged a reviewing court to consider the current sentencing scheme for failing to register.

The Court noted that “although we agree that earlier courts have not specifically considered the severity of the specific sentencing schemes for failing to register, we are bound by earlier decisions that have held that the registration requirements do not violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses. We do, however, encourage a reviewing court in the future to consider the severity of the entire sentencing scheme for failing to register.

Williams was convicted of three offenses arising from his failure to comply with the registration and verification requirements of the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). On appeal, he challenged the penalty provisions enacted to enforce SORNA, averring that they violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. After careful review, the Superior Court found that the penalty provisions of SORNA do not themselves violate ex post facto protections because Appellant failed to register and committed the instant offenses more than two years after SORNA made it a crime to fail to register.

However, the Superior Court footnoted the “harsh” sentencing guidelines assigned to a failure to comply with reporting requirements, commenting that “although Appellant urges us to reconsider whether the registration requirements of SORNA are punitive, with a greater focus on the penalty provisions, we are bound by our recent holding in Commonwealth v. Woodruff, 135 A.3d 1045 (Pa. Super. 2016).” And, since “[o]ur Supreme Court has not yet called into question these prior rulings … we are bound by the holdings of prior panels of this Court.”


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