Commonwealth v. Moose

Commonwealth v. Moose is another decision of the Pennsylvania appellate courts concerning Subchapters H and I of SORNA.  In 1995, the defendant entered a negotiated guilty plea to third-degree murder, rape, and criminal conspiracy. At the time the defendant pleaded guilty, Pennsylvania had not yet enacted laws requiring sex offender registration. In  December 2011, PA enacted SORNA I, which retroactively applied registration requirements to any individual serving a sentence for a sexually violent offense on or after the statute’s effective date. The trial court subsequently informed the defendant, who was still incarcerated, that he was considered a Tier III offender and would be subject to lifetime registration requirements. In August 2014, the defendant filed a pro se motion to enforce his negotiated plea agreement and enjoin any requirement to register under the then-existing sex offender registration scheme, SORNA I. The trial court denied the motion. In its en banc decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the portion of the trial court’s order requiring the defendant to register under SORNA I and remanded. First, the Court relied on Commonwealth  v.  Lacombe, 234 A.3d 602 (Pa. 2020), and concluded that the defendant was not required to challenge his SORNA registration requirements under the PCRA. The Court’s review of plea enforcement cases, together with the more recent decisions applying Commonwealth v. Muniz, 164 A.3d 1189 (Pa. 2017), clarified that a defendant’s negotiated guilty plea precluded subsequent application of a punitive registration scheme because it would effectively alter the petitioner’s agreed-upon sentence. Therefore, based on the defendant’s plea agreement, non-registration could not have been a consideration in his decision to plead guilty. The Court then held that the defendant could not be ordered to comply with SORNA registration requirements, which would impose additional criminal punishment beyond what was stated in the plea agreement. But the Court remanded for the trial court to determine whether the defendant is obligated to register as a sex offender under Subchapter I.

Moose