The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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March 10, 2013

Offender battles Megan’s Law change

Calls signup rule unconstitutional

GREENVILLE —

 

A Greenville man convicted of a sex offense is challenging the validity of new Megan’s Law registration requirements that he said should not apply to him.

Last month, Shawn C. Lucas, 29, of 24 Main St., sued state police, who are responsible for enforcing Megan’s Law and its sex offender reporting requirements.

“My big argument is that the entire law is unconstitutional,” said Ronald D. Amrhein Jr., attorney for Lucas.

The law violates the state and federal constitutions by imposing legal consequences for actions that occurred before the law was enacted, he said.

“My other argument is, if it is constitutional, it doesn’t apply to this guy,” Amrhein said. “I think I’m right on both.”

In appears Lucas is the first in Mercer County to file an official objection to the new Megan’s Law, but Amrhein said he expects more suits to be filed making the same or similar arguments.

Lucas pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory sexual assault for having sex with a girl who was 14 and 15 when the offenses occurred in 2009 and 2010 at his former home in West Salem Township. He was sentenced Aug. 25, 2011, to 11è to 23 months in jail followed by 18 months’ probation.

The suit said regulations in place at the time of his plea and sentencing did not require Lucas to report or register under Megan’s Law.

The plea was “strongly premised” on the fact he would not have to register, the suit said.

“Had a law been in effect at the time of the guilty plea requiring (Lucas) to register for Megan’s Law, a different result would have been pursued,” the suit said.

Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole sent Lucas a letter in December saying he must register because of changes made in Megan’s Law. Lucas said he registered after learning he would be arrested if he did not.

The changes included moving up the time offenders must register from end of sentence to time of sentence; increasing the number of times for reporting from one a year to four; and expanding the number of offenses subject to registration.

Lucas previously filed a motion to stay or retroactive termination of supervision with his sentencing judge. A Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge denied the motion in January, but his order noted that “the statute that was in place at the time defendant pled guilty is the key for determining whether or not he’s required to register pursuant to Megan’s Law, and it appearing that there was no Megan’s Law registration requirement at that time.”

The changes in state law were made to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act, and Lucas hopes Pennsylvania will follow the lead of Ohio, whose Supreme Court ruled that that state’s amendment to comply with federal law was unconstitutional, according to the suit.

Because of the nature of the suit, Amrhein expects the issue will eventually be resolved by the state Supreme Court.

Lucas is willing to fight this fight, with the resulting publicity and lengthy road to resolution, because, “The consequences of being categorized under Megan’s Law are pervasive,” Amrhein said.

Such a designation hurts  chances of finding a job, Amrhein gave as an example.

The effect on Lucas’ life, should the suit be successful, would be significant, outweighing any embarrassment that might accompany the suit as it winds through the court system, Amrhein said.

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