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Commonwealth v. Nase

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 9, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
CHARLES NASE, Appellant

Appeal from the Order September 20, 2013. In the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County. Criminal Division at No(s): CP-45-CR-0001201-2005. Before WASHINGTON, J.

Thomas P. Sundmaker, Stroudsburg, for appellant.

Elmer D. Christine, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Stroudsburg, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., BOWES, and SHOGAN, JJ.

OPINION

BOWES, J.

Charles Nase appeals from the denial of his petition to avoid additional sex offender registration requirements, specifically, registering for an additional fifteen years. After careful review, we reverse.

Appellant originally entered a guilty plea to statutory sexual assault, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3122.1, and unlawful contact with a minor, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6318, on March 7, 2006. The facts underlying the plea were that Appellant engaged in sexual intercourse with a female aged fourteen when he was twenty years of age. The Commonwealth agreed to nolle prosse charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person less than sixteen years of age, aggravated indecent assault with a person less than sixteen years of age, indecent assault of a person less than sixteen years of age, and corruption of minors.

The court sentenced Appellant on May 24, 2006, to two months to twelve months incarceration for the statutory sexual assault charge and did not impose any further sentence at the remaining count. Appellant completed serving his sentence no later than May of 2007. However, the charge of unlawful contact with a minor required a period of sexual offender registration of ten years under Megan's Law. That registration offense was specifically included in the plea so that Appellant would be required to register as a sex offender for a period of ten years.

On December 20, 2012, a new version of Megan's Law became effective. This law brought Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal Sexual Offender Registration

Page 529

and Notification Act, SORNA.[1] Pennsylvania's SORNA law required those convicted of unlawful contact with a minor to register for twenty-five years.[2] Appellant filed the underlying petition on June 19, 2013. Therein, he contended that fundamental fairness, contract law, and the due process and contract clauses of the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitution precluded increasing his registration period from ten to twenty-five years. The court conducted a hearing that consisted of argument by both parties before denying Appellant's petition. The court issued an opinion in support of its order. This timely appeal ensued, and the court directed Appellant to comply with Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Appellant complied with the court's order and the court issued a brief supplemental opinion pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a). Appellant now presents three issues for our review.

A. Do the mandatory registration requirements for Megan's Law interfere with or violate any agreement made by and between the Commonwealth and the Defendant at the time that he entered into his guilty plea?
B. Was the Defendant, at the time of his guilty plea and sentencing, specifically advised as to what his obligations were to be, not that those self same restrictions could be modified at some time in the future retroactively?
C. Was the Commonwealth's reliance upon Commonwealth v. Benner [, 2004 PA Super 243, 853 A.2d 1068 (Pa.Super. 2004)] misplaced?

Appellant's brief at 17.

Although Appellant purports to only raise three issues, his first claim contains eight interrelated sub-arguments. Appellant's initial three sub-arguments are that fundamental fairness and due process mandate that his plea agreement be enforced. His next two positions are constitutional challenges under the federal and Pennsylvania contract clauses. Relatedly, his final three sub-arguments allege that Pennsylvania's SORNA statute substantially impairs his plea bargain under the contract clauses.

The Fourteenth Amendment and Article I, § 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantee due process protections.[3] Our Supreme ...


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