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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Donald Lee Ackley

December 18, 2012

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLEE
v.
DONALD LEE ACKLEY APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order Entered October 11, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-21-CR-0001137-1985

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lazarus, J.

J-A30022-12

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., LAZARUS, J., and OTT, J.

OPINION BY LAZARUS, J.

Donald Lee Ackley appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County denying his petition for exemption from the provision of Megan's Law requiring internet posting of photographs and information regarding lifetime registrants. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 9798.1. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On February 7, 1986, Ackley pled guilty to rape, and on March 18, 1986, the court sentenced him to a term of five to fifteen years' imprisonment. After completing his maximum sentence, Ackley was released from prison on January 1, 2001.*fn1

In 1996, during Ackley's incarceration, Megan's Law I went into effect, imposing a ten-year reporting and registration requirement for individuals convicted of rape.*fn2 On June 9, 2000, Megan's Law II went into effect, requiring lifetime registration for individuals convicted of rape.*fn3

On January 24, 2005, four years after Ackley was released from prison, Megan's Law III went into effect, adding, inter alia, the following provision:

9798.1 Information made available on the Internet and electronic notification (a) Legislative findings. - It is hereby declared to be the finding of the General Assembly that public safety will be enhanced by making information about sexually violent predators, lifetime registrants and other sex offenders available to the public through the Internet and electronic notification. Knowledge of whether a person is a sexually violent predator, lifetime registrant or other sex offender could be a significant factor in protecting oneself and one's family members, or those in care of a group or community organization from recidivist acts by sexually violent predators, lifetime registrants or other sex offenders. The technology afforded by the Internet and electronic notification would make this information readily accessible to parents and private entities, enabling them to undertake appropriate remedial precautions to prevent or avoid placing potential victims at risk. Public access to information about sexually violent predators, lifetime registrants and other sex offenders is intended solely as a means of public protection and shall not be construed as punitive.

42 Pa.C.S. § 9798.1(a).

After his release from prison, Ackley married and became a father. For the past seven years he has been legally blind as the result of a hereditary disease. Because of the internet publication of information regarding his lifetime registrant status, Ackley "struggles with constant evictions and harassment by the community while attempting to raise his son and protect his marriage." Trial Court Opinion, 10/11/11, at 2. In September 2008, Ackley pled guilty to violating Section 4915(a) of the Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4915(a) (failure to comply with registration of sexual offenders requirements) and was sentenced to probation. N.T. 8/17/11, at 7. On January 21, 2009, Ackley filed a pro se petition seeking exemption from application of the internet posting requirements of Megan's Law III. Shortly thereafter, on January 29, 2009, he again pled guilty to violating Section 4915(a) of the Crimes Code, and was sentenced to three years' probation.*fn4

On June 16, 2009, the trial court denied Ackley's petition for exemption from the internet posting requirements. However, by order filed October 3, 2009, it appointed counsel to file a second petition. Following the filing of a counseled petition on January 25, 2011, the court scheduled a hearing on August 17, 2011. On October 11, 2011, the court denied relief, although it was "completely satisfied that the people of the Commonwealth are not endangered by . . . Ackley."

On November 4, 2011, Ackley filed a timely notice of appeal, and now raises the following issues for our review. Is [Ackley] retroactively subject to the internet registration requirements under Megan's ...


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