The Chester County Court of Common Pleas declared Subchapter H of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) unconstitutional as violative of several provisions of both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. The PA Supreme Court vacated and remanded.
The Court began its discussion with an in-depth analysis of the developments in PA case law concerning sex offenders. Applying the law to the case before it, the Court determined that the evidence presented by the defendant in the trial court provided a colorable argument to debunk the settled view of sexual offender recidivation rates and the effectiveness of tier-based sexual offender registration systems underlying the General Assembly’s findings as well as various decisions of this Court and the United States Supreme Court. Nevertheless, because the trial court did not have the benefit of the opposing science if any, the evidence currently in the record did not provide a sufficient basis for the Court to overturn the legislative determination. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the proper remedy was to remand to the trial court to give both parties an opportunity to develop arguments and present additional evidence and to allow the trial court to weigh that evidence in determining whether the defendant refuted the relevant legislative findings supporting the challenged registration and notification provisions of Revised Subchapter H of SORNA.