When a person commits a sexually-related offense, state law will often require the individual to register as a sex offender for a specific amount of time. A less serious charge may only result in short-term registration, but more serious sex offenses may require registration for several years or even for life. If an individual has the opportunity to expunge sex offender status in Pennsylvania, he or she must follow the appropriate procedures for doing so in the state.
Implications of Sex Offender Status
Facing a requirement to register as a sex offender in any state can have drastic consequences. These offenses may limit a registered offender’s options when it comes to living arrangements and employment. For example, if an individual is a registered sex offender for crimes involving children, it is very likely he or she will not be allowed to live or work within a certain distance of schools, daycares, or playgrounds. Sex offender status can also limit employment opportunities. Some places of employment outright deny employment to registered sex offenders as a matter of policy while others simply prefer to hire candidates who are not registered sex offenders.
Status as a registered sex offender in PA means that anyone with access to a computer can use the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law website to look up sex offender information in an area. Users can search for specific registered individuals by name or other personal details or simply perform a search on a specific area to see information about all registered sex offenders known to live in that area. In addition to legal penalties for sexually-related crimes and employment-related issues from registered sex offender status, a registered sex offender will likely face additional scrutiny and distrust from his or her local community.
Expunging Sex Offender Status
Depending on the nature of sentencing surrounding a sex offense, an individual convicted of a sex crime and required to register as a sex offender may not have the option of appealing his or her registration. For others, a judge sets a specific amount of time the registrant must remain on the sex offender registry. This could be for several years or until the registrant meets certain criteria. Many possible reasons exist that a registered sex offender may use to justify his or her expungement from the state registry.
- The individual’s offense has since been decriminalized.
- The probation period assigned by a judge has ended.
- The individual completed extensive counseling or other treatment.
- The individual has a verified record of rehabilitation.
- The conviction record of the individual’s offense has been successfully expunged.
- The individual was a minor at the time of conviction for his or her sexual offense.
- The individual has convincing evidence to prove he or she is no longer a public danger.
- Another court overturned the individual’s prior conviction or the individual received an official pardon.
Most states separate violent offenses from nonviolent offenses. An individual required to register as a sex offender for a nonviolent offense has a much better chance of securing a registry expungement than an individual who committed a violent sexual crime.
How to Approach the Expungement Process
The best thing for any registered sex offender to do about expungement is to speak with an attorney about the available options. Even if a registered sex offender does not technically qualify for expungement, an attorney may help uncover additional evidence or locate support resources that could help the individual. An expungement lawyer may be able to help a registered sex offender enter counseling or meet other requirements for expungement.
Ultimately, the sex offender registry exists for public safety; law-abiding citizens have the right to know if nearby individuals pose a threat to them or their families, and expungement of sex offender registration status is a complex process meant to preserve public safety.