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New Bill Would Make It Easier To Prosecute Cyber-Bullying Cases

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DENVER (CBS4) — Some Colorado lawmakers say not enough is being done in the state to protect children and teenagers from bullying online or over cellphones, and they are trying to change that.

Arapahoe Deputy District Attorney J.P. Moore has worked as a prosecutor 13 years with much of the time in the Child Victims Unit. He’s the first to say cyber-bullying isn’t just vicious, in many cases it’s a crime that causes pain and suffering, and yet in Colorado is nearly impossible to prosecute.

Rep. Rhonda Fields talks with CBS4's Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

Rep. Rhonda Fields talks with CBS4’s Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

“The challenge is, we know this happens, and there isn’t something that squarely addresses this bullying,” Moore said.

Moore says while they’ve tried the harassment and stalking statutes, they don’t exactly fit. In fact, there is nothing in Colorado’s criminal code that specifically addresses cyber-bullying. That gap has Moore worried, not only as a prosecutor, but the father of a child with autism.

“With my son, or with children with special needs, there are certain places and certain areas that they are at risk, and it terrifies us.,” Moore said.

“This is relevant topic that has to be addressed,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

Fields says its time the state updated its laws. She’s introduced a bill that makes cyber-bullying of a child a misdemeanor crime.

“Eighty percent of our youth are now using cellphones, and unfortunately some of those folks are using their cellphones to intimidate, to harass, to embarrass,” Fields said. “This is something the state needs to address.”

Moore knows critics will call it an attack on free speech, but under the bill prosecutors will have to prove more than hateful words. They’ll need to prove serious emotional distress.

“It makes me feel like that is one step closer to keeping my child, other children safer,” Moore said.

The bill goes before its first committee Monday. The Colorado District Attorneys Council, which represents all of the elected district attorney’s in the state, supports it.

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