Whether teen sexting should continue to be a felony in Colorado or treated as a lesser crime is proving to be a vexing question for state legislators.
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- November 2015: 'Sexting Panic' Author Offers Advice After Canon City Headlines
Right now, teens found guilty of sending each other nude photos could be labeled as sex offenders for life. A committee of lawmakers heard three hours of testimony this week on a bill that would make teen sexting a misdemeanor crime.
A number of district attorneys, including the 18th Judicial District's George Brauchler, testified in support of the bill.
"This gives us the ability to bring kids into a system to get them services in a way that won’t follow them forever," Brauchler testified.
But others argued even a misdemeanor charge for all sexting cases is too broad because it's so common. And it could discourage teens from reporting abuse, said Carrie Thompson with the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.
"Even a minor contact with the criminal justice system such as the petty offense that is being considered has a certain component of shame and humiliation associated with it," she testified.
The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar does support misdemeanor charges for teens who engage in abusive sexting.
The House committee is expected to vote on the bill at its next meeting. If the bill ultimately passes, Colorado would become the 16th state to modify criminal penalties for “sexting.”