Pennsylvania v. Derhammer

The issue raised in this discretionary appeal was whether the Commonwealth could punish an individual for conduct which was made a crime by an amended statute where the original version of the statute has been declared unconstitutional in its entirety. In 1995, Appellant Joseph Derhammer pled guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (“IDSI”), and was sentenced to five-to-ten years’ incarceration. Pursuant to Megan’s Law, he was required, upon release from prison, to register his address with the Pennsylvania State Police. He was also obligated to notify the state police of all subsequent address changes for the remainder of his life. Any failure to provide timely notification as required by law would constitute a criminal offense. While subject to these obligations, Appellant moved to a new residence on April 1, 2009, and reported his new address to the state police on April 6. Based on having waited five days, Appellant was charged by information with the second-degree felony of failing to register as a sex offender under Section 4915(a)(1) of the Crimes Code, which was part of Megan’s Law III. When Megan’s Law III was originally enacted in 2004, offenders were given ten days to report an address change to the state police. However, a 2006 legislative change reduced that period to 48 hours. Thus, the 48-hour period was in effect when Appellant relocated on April 1, 2009. In 2011, Appellant was convicted at a bench trial of failing to timely register his new address and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. After his direct appeal rights were restored nunc pro tunc, the Superior Court awarded a new trial due to the trial court’s failure to conduct a jury-waiver colloquy. In the interim, Section 4915 of the Crimes Code expired and was replaced with Section 4915.1, as part of Megan’s Law IV – commonly known as the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). SORNA went into effect on December 20, 2012, and provided for the expiration of Megan’s Law III at that time. The following year, this Court announced its decision in Commonwealth v. Neiman, 624 Pa. 53, 84 A.3d 603 (2013), finding that Act 2004-152 amounted to omnibus legislation in violation of the Constitution’s single-subject rule. Thus, Neiman invalidated Act 2004-152 – which included Megan’s Law III – in its entirety. The Supreme Court held that, at the time of Appellant’s second trial and sentencing, the Commonwealth lacked authority to prosecute him for having waited until April 6, 2009, to report his April 1, 2009, address change. Therefore, the trial court should have granted his motion to dismiss. View "Pennsylvania v. Derhammer" on Justia Law