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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

A person in Pennsylvania can wind up on the state’s sex offender registry without ever being convicted of a sex crime. One lawmaker is looking to fix that.

“At least 34 people are on the sex offender registry as a consequence of their conviction for interference with custody of children,’” Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Bucks County, wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “This offense frequently arises when parents argue about the custody of their children, and one of them violates a custody order of the court. Others convicted of this offense stole a car without realizing that a child was in the back seat.”

Senate Bill 854 would remove the charge of interference with the custody of children from the list of offenses that place an person on the registry.

“Of course, these offenders should be held accountable for violating court orders and stealing cars,” Greenleaf wrote in his co-sponsorship letter. “Including these offenders on the sex offender registry, however, not only carries lifelong consequences for the offender but also it dilutes the registry so that it is less clear about which offenders pose a real danger.”

More than 160 people were charged with the offense in Pennsylvania in 2016, according to a search of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

This includes three people in Cumberland County and seven in Dauphin County, according to court records.

Under current law, anyone convicted of interference with the custody of children is placed on the registry and must register once a year for 15 years.

Greenleaf’s bill was spurred by an investigation published by Jo Ciavaglia, a reporter in Bucks County.

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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