New bill aims to downgrade consequences for teens caught sexting

STATEWIDE — A proposed law is raising new questions when it comes to punishing teens who engage in sexting.

Currently, Colorado law can carry Class 3 felony charges and consequences that include registering as a sex offender if someone is in possession of sexually explicit images involving a minor.

Lawmakers have worked to find a more appropriate solution after a 2015 sexting scandal at Cañon City High School where more than 100 students were involved and no charges were ever filed.

House Bill 1302 is giving prosecutors more options when it comes to charging teens who engage in sexting.

Instead of carrying a lifelong punishment, teens could face lesser charges.

Right now, teens caught sexting are charged with child pornography or not charged at all and the proposed bill aims to provide alternative, more appropriate consequences depending on the circumstances.

“If a boyfriend and girlfriend are 17-years-old and share revealing photos of each other, I’m not sure we need to be charging them with child pornography,” said Sherry Lynn Boyles, the Executive Director for TESSA. “So we just want to give more options and really have the laws reflect the changing technology.”

Posting a private image by a minor would be a Class 2 misdemeanor carrying a three to 12-month jail conviction but if it’s posted with the intent to harass an individual, it would become a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by 6 to 18 months in jail.

“We’ve certainly seen cases come up where teens have shared photos with each other and sometimes against their will,” said Lynn Boyles. “Sometimes there’s not consent and that’s a very concerning situation.”

“I mean if it’s consensual, it’s up to the individuals but as a whole, it’s dangerous and I don’t think it should be legal,” said Stephanie Remig, a student at Mitchell High School.

Possessing a private image by a minor would be a petty offense but if an individual has three or more different images of minors, it’s bumped up to a Class 2 misdemeanor.

“Child pornography laws were written to protect kids from older people who were exploiting them versus kids sharing photos of each other and maybe not using the best judgement,” said Lynn Boyles.

“I think it would prevent people from doing it but there’s some people that just can’t stop, some people that just don’t care,” said Sarah Remig, another student at Mitchell High School.

Under the proposed new laws, a possession charge could be dropped if steps to delete the images within 72 hours are taken or if law enforcement or school officials are notified.



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