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Pennsylvania Sex Offenses and Why They are Different?

In Pennsylvania, sex-related crimes are offenses that involve illegal, coerced, or attempted sexual conduct by one person towards another. The Pennsylvania judiciary and specific local custodians create, maintain, and disseminate public records on sex-related offenses.

What is a Sex Crime in Pennsylvania?

Chapter 31 of the Crime Code of Pennsylvania defines sex crimes as acts or behaviors which cause or compel another person to engage in unwanted or unsolicited sex acts. Common sex crimes under Pennsylvania law include:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Deviate assault
  • Indecent exposure
  • Indecent assault

Other sex crimes as defined under state statutes include, but are not limited to, sexual extortion, female mutilation, and unlawful dissemination of intimate images and other internet sex crimes.

What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses?

Megan's Law classifies sex offenses based on the circumstances surrounding the offense, the individuals involved, body parts, or foreign object involved. Common types of sex offenses include:

Rape: Summarily, Section 3121 of the Crime Code defines rape as intercourse or any sex act without consent or duress. Rape occurs when the offender:

  • Engages in intercourse with a victim by force
  • Threatens or forcibly compels a victim in a way that would prevent resistance
  • Engages in intercourse with an unconscious person
  • Sexually exploits a person whom they have substantially impaired by drugs, intoxicants or other means
  • Engages in sexual acts with a person who has a mental disability that renders the complainant incapable of consent.

Rape is a first-degree felony, and rape of an adult carries a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. On the other hand, rape of a minor carries a maximum of 40 years imprisonment. The rape of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Likewise, the court may impose fines of not more than $25,000 and registers the guilty party as a sex offender.

Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse: As per Section § 3123, this is a sex crime where the accused engages in any act of sexual gratification involving their sex organs or via a manipulated foreign object and the victim's orifice by:

  • Forcible compulsion
  • The threat of force that would prevent resistance with reasonable resolution
  • Exploiting a victim who is unconscious, not lucid, or unaware that the sexual act is occurring
  • Substantially impairs the victim's power to refute his or her conduct by administering or employing, without knowing the complainant, drugs, alcohol, or other means to prevent resistance
  • Exploiting a victim who has a mental disability that renders them incapable of consent
  • An accused is four or more years older than the victim and where both parties are not married to each other

Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse is a first-degree felony and punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. A maximum of 40 years imprisonment applies to such acts with a child less than 13 years of age. In the event of serious bodily injuries to the child, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Likewise, the offender faces fines of not more than $25,000.

Sexual Assault: Except as provided in section 3121 concerning rape or 3123 concerning involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault is any sexual act or deviate sexual act without the victim's consent. Also, sexual assault applies to penetration, however slight, with the offender's sex organ or a foreign object, and for any purpose other than good faith medical, hygienic, or law enforcement procedures. Emission is not required.

Sexual assault is a second-degree felony and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Likewise, the court imposes a fine not more than $25,000 on the offender.

Indecent Assault: Per § 3126 of the Criminal Code, this is a sex act where the offender has indecent contact with the victim or intentionally causes the victim to come in contact with the offender's body fluids or fecal matter to arouse sexual desire and:

  • the offender does so without consent
  • the offender does so by forcible compulsion
  • the offender does so by threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent resistance by reasonable resolution
  • the victim is unconscious, or the person knows that the complainant is unaware that the indecent contact is occurring
  • the offender has substantially impaired the victim's power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering drugs, intoxicants, or other means to prevent resistance from the victim
  • the victim has a mental disability that renders them incapable of consent
  • the victim is less than 13 years of age
  • the victim is less than 16 years of age, the offender is four or more years older, and both parties are not married

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the allegation of indecent assault, the offender may be of a first or second-degree felony or misdemeanor. The penalties imposed are:

  • A first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $10,000
  • A second-degree misdemeanor bears a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000
  • Indecent contact with a child under 13 is usually a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. However, a subsequent offense is a third-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $10,000

Levels of Sex Offenses in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Criminal Code classifies sex offenders based on the severity of the crime:

  • Tier 1: Tier 1 sex offenses are those crimes involving the unlawful restraint, institutional sexual assault, or corruption of a minor. Guilty offenders must report to a Pennsylvania State Police office every year for fifteen years.
  • Tier 2: Tier 2 offenses are crimes that involve unlawful contact with a minor, prostitution involving a minor, or indecent assault. Guilty offenders must report to a Pennsylvania State Police office two times each year. Offenders are also registered on the sexual offender registry for 25 years.
  • Tier 3: Tier 3 offenses include aggravated indecent assault, incest, and rape. These offenses account for about 60 percent of the state's sexual registry database. Guilty offenders remain on the sexual registry for life. They must also report at a local Pennsylvania State Police office every ninety days or four times each year.

How Do I Find A Sex Offender Near Me in Pennsylvania?

State and local law enforcement publicize information and maintain a database on sexual offenders as per Megan's Law. Members of the public may obtain information on registered sex offenders, predators, or delinquents, who live, work, or school near them. To find information on a sex offender, the requester must contact the local law enforcement or visit their county's official website. Likewise, the Pennsylvania State Police maintains a statewide sex offender registry.

Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry

The Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry is a statewide database on all registered sex offenders. Members of the public do not have to meet any eligibility requirement to query the database. To query the database:

  • Visit the official website
  • Click on Megan Law Searches in the Search Menu
  • Use either the offender's name, city, county, compliance status, or other information to query the database
  • Click submit

The database will return all available information on the sex offender. The information includes, but is not limited, to:

  • Name and all known aliases
  • Year of birth
  • Residences, intended residences, educational institutions, and employment information on the offender
  • Photograph(s) of the offender
  • A physical description of the offender (gender, height, weight, eye color, hair color, and race)
  • Identifying marks, including scars, birthmarks, tattoos, and amputations
  • The compliance and registration status of the offender
  • Whether the victim is a minor
  • Date of conviction

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are the Sex Offender Restrictions in Pennsylvania?

Generally, the presiding judge has the discretion to impose specific restrictions on sex offenders based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Under Megan's Law, restrictions imposed on Sex Offenders in Pennsylvania include:

  • Community Notification: All sex offenders must notify all households and businesses within 250 feet of their new residence about their offender status. This notification must bear the name, address, picture, and details of the offense committed.
  • Living Arrangements: Megan Law does not automatically restrict where an offender may live. However, the court may prohibit an offender from living near a school, daycare facility, park, or other places where children congregate. This restriction is based on the court, law enforcement, or parole board risk assessment of the offender.
  • Employment Options: Offenders may be restricted from working at certain businesses or positions to keep the offender away from people similar to their victims, depending on the circumstances.
  • Internet Use: The court imposes this restriction on a case-by-case basis if the offender uses the internet to commit sex crimes, such as contacting or stalking a victim on social media.
  • No-Contact Orders: Offenders may be restricted from contacting specific individuals or putting themselves in situations where they may come into contact with people who match their victim's profile.
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