Change in Sexting Laws

LeighAnne Johnson

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     Sexting is a topic that no teenager wants to discuss, but as it continues to pose as a major issue throughout high schools across the United States, it becomes necessary to address. As of 2018, major changes have been made to Colorado state law around sexting, or the possession, distribution and sending of explicit images via mobile phone.

    The main purpose of the sexting assembly held at Glenwood Springs High School (GSHS) on January 8th and 9th was to inform students of the change in law regarding the possession, distribution, and sending of nude images.

    GSHS Assistant Principal Pat Engle recognizes that this type of behavior is occurring frequently in teens. He says, “When compared to the old law, the adolescent who sent or possessed the images charged with a felony would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives. Because judges saw that this penalty was severe, they chose to change the law to where courts still hold a legal consequence over possession of nude images, without having the kid be charged with a felony.”

    Engle believes the events that took place in Canyon City in November 2015 encouraged lawmakers to revise the laws regarding sexting. In the Canyon City sexting scandal, Colorado high school and middle school students were accused of sending and exchanging hundreds of nude images. None of the students faced any charges. It seemed too severe a consequence to charge all of the students with felonies, yet they had committed a crime.   

    The revision of these laws provides an in between- not too strict, but not letting kids off easy.   Many feel the new law will increase appropriate consequences and hope it will prevent sexting in the future.

    It is important to differentiate between child pornography and teenagers sexting. It is considerably more dangerous and harmful for someone much older to be looking at pictures of a child without their permission than it is for two people of the same age to willingly exchange images.

    Under the new 2018 laws, if the juvenile is knowingly possessing a sexually explicit image without the depicted person’s permission, it is considered a Petty Offense.

    If this same situation occurs but there are ten or more images that depict three or more people, it is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

    Posting a private image by a juvenile without the depicted person’s permission or when the recipient did not request to view the image and suffered emotional distress or when the juvenile should have known that the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

    Posting a private image by a juvenile with the intent to cause emotional distress to the depicted person or a prior adjudication (including diversion) for posting a private image by a juvenile or displaying three or more images that depicted three or more people is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

    According to https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcrmp/rule_58, Petty Offense is a minor crime for which the punishment is usually just a small fine or short term of imprisonment. A Class 2 Misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A Class 1 Misdemeanor carries a maximum punishment of of more than six months in jail.

    Engle hopes that this revision of laws will impact the GSHS students’ behavior positively. He says, “If a student is ticketed, he/she would have to appear in court and explain themselves to a judge and I’m hoping that this law is as much a deterrent as anything else.” Before, the legal consequence was not often acted upon because it was so harsh, but lawmakers are hoping that the moderations to the law will positively affect students’ actions.

    Engle believes that “the school and law enforcement will now be more likely to ticket kids.”

    The Board of Education for the Roaring Fork District will revise the behavior policies for the district and see what needs to be added regarding sexting. There is recognition that this behavior is occurring district wide, but because each case is so different, it will be dealt with by each individual school.

    For a long time, students have been engaging in harmful behavior without any real consequences. People have gotten hurt and embarrassed because of it. Future jobs and other opportunities have been threatened. The administration at GSHS and schools district wide hope that the revision of laws will change this and prevent students from future unnecessary exposure.

 

 

 

 

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