Commonwealth v. Lacombe et al., No. 35 MAP 2018 (Pa. 2020)
Nature of Case: In a pair of lower court cases, courts found the Pennsylvania’s new SORNA law was unconstitutional when applied retroactively, in that it was punishment and violated the Ex Post Facto clause. The new law was passed in response to a prior Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion, Commonwealth v. Muniz, which found the previous iteration of the law was punitive and thus could not be retroactively applied.
In these cases, the lower courts agreed that, in line with Muniz this new law was also punitive and declared that the registration obligations did not apply to appellees. The Commonwealth sought direct review from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Holding: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the trial courts, finding that the new SORNA law was non-punitive and thus could be constitutionally applied retroactively without violating the Ex Post Facto clause (and additionally found that Pennsylvania’s state Post Conviction Relief Act was not the exclusive means through which the constitutionality of sex offense registration may be challenged). The Court undertook similar analysis that it did in Muniz, but decided that the changes to the law — primarily the reduction in the number of times a person subject to SORNA must appear in person to register, as well as a reduction in the number of registrable offenses — rendered it non-punitive.
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinion | view via Google Scholar
- Concurring Opinion
- Concurring-Dissenting Opinion
- Trial Court Opinion – Lacombe