Today, State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R, Montgomery / Bucks) announced legislation that would remove “interference with custody of children” from the list of offenses for which the offender must be included on the Commonwealth’s sex offender registry. The legislation is in response to an investigative report by the Doylestown Intelligencer, finding at least 34 people registered as sex offenders in the Commonwealth without any evidence of having committed an act of sexual violence or abuse.
Author of Pennsylvania’s “Megan’s Law” requiring public registration of sex offenders, Senator Greenleaf has always been committed to protecting children from sexual assault. Sex offenders must register with the Pennsylvania State Police, which posts photographs and other information about these convicted offenders on a publicly available website. However, following the enactment of legislation in 2011 to comply with federal changes to sex offender registration, Pennsylvania added new offenses that could result in one having to register as a sex offender.
At least 34 people are on the sex offender registry as a consequence of their conviction for “interference with custody of children.” This offense frequently arises when parents argue about the custody of their children, and one of them violates a custody order of the court. Others convicted of this offense stole a car without realizing that a child was in the back seat. Only one other state includes this offense as eligible for sex offender registration, and that state permits an exception for parents of the child.
“Of course, these offenders should be held accountable for their crimes, but forcing them to suffer the stigma and embarrassment of being labeled a sex offender is unjust,” said Senator Greenleaf. “Including these people on the sex offender registry not only carries life-long consequences for the offender, but also dilutes the registry so that it is less clear about which offenders pose a real danger. Under my legislation, one must be held accountable for interfering with court-ordered child custody, but they would not be required to register as a sex offender when there is no evidence that they have engaged in any such activity.”