Colorado Teen Sexting Reform Passes

by dmatson on April 21, 2017

A bill to create new misdemeanor criminal charges for teens caught sexting has been passed by the Colorado state legislature, and now awaits signing by Governor Hickenlooper.  Under previous existing law, any incident of “sexting”, i.e. transmission of a sexually explicit photo or video via mobile phone, is currently considered a felony child pornography sex offense, sexual exploitation of a child.

After extensive hearings and debate, the current compromise version of the reform bill, House bill 1302, would create new misdemeanor charges, “posting private images by a juvenile”, and “possessing private images by a juvenile”. Both charges would be classified as Class 2 Misdemeanor offenses. However, a Class 3 felony offense of child pornography, which would result in a sex offender registry requirement, is still a possibility if the district attorney “feels it is appropriate in egregious cases.”

Colorado sexting lawsHowever, “consensual sexting” by teens will be a civil infraction, which was a key negotiating component of those looking to protect teens from dumb, impulsive decisions from overblown, serious felony prosecutions.

The compromise bill:

  • Creates a Petty Offense of possession of a private nude image of another teen without their permission, if the juvenile is at least 14 and within 4 years of the victim’s age
  • Creates a Class 2 Misdemeanor Offense of posting a private nude image of another teen without their permission, if the juvenile is at least 14 and within 4 years of the victim’s age.
  • creates diversion programs for first-time offenders
  • mandates expungement of court records 42 days after completion of the diversion program

Overall, this bill appears to be meaningful progress towards not punishing kids for careless and impulsive action with no other victims but leaves prosecutors room to charge exploitative, bullying, or other threatening actions with crimes under the new Colorado statutes.


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