Crimes and misdemeanors

New Colorado bill to change “child porn” charges for sexting teens

(OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A new proposed bill in Colorado is seeking to reduce the charge of “distributing child porn” for teens who get “caught” sexting explicit photos of themselves. Under the current legislation, they could be prosecuted and forced to register as a sex offender, but the new bill is trying to change this to a class two misdemeanor. Opponents of the change, however, point out that this could lead to more prosecutors charging teens with a crime for “consensual sexting.”  “Sexting, in and of itself, is not harmful,” Amy Hasinoff, a communications professor and author of the book Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent, told Broadly. “Like any other sex act, it’s only harmful when it happens without the consent of everyone involved. In that case, we need to address the person who committed the act of harm. Laws against sexting criminalize the victim and the perpetrator as though their behavior is the same.”

Hasinoff also argues that the law might disproportionately affect teenagers who are already more vulnerable to prosecution: teens of color, low-income teens, teens in foster care, or gay teens, for example. “One third of 16- and 17-year olds are sexting, whether it’s a felony, misdemeanor or not. We have to deal with that reality rather than dreaming that we can bring that rate down to zero percent by criminalizing it,” Hasinoff said. “It’s not going to happen.” If the bill passes the Colorado state legislature, it will go into effect on July 1, 2016.

Read the full story at Broadly.

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