DENVER (AP) – State lawmakers have reached a compromise on a bill that makes consensual sexting by teenagers a civil infraction. Currently underage sexting is a felony.
The bill allows prosecutors to file more serious charges when intimidation is involved or images are shared without permission.
“If we can’t do anything else at the state House here in Denver, we ought be able help our kids and our young kids across the state with this new technology and this new problem. So it’s worth sticking with and I’m glad we got it done,” said Rep. Yeulin Willett, a Republican representing Grand Junction.
The bill passed out of a House committee unanimously on Thursday.
Colorado is just one of many states to review child exploitation laws in response to teen sexting. But no state has removed all felony possibilities for teen sexts.
At least 20 states have adopted sexting laws with less-serious penalties, mostly within the past five years. Eleven states have made sexting between teens a misdemeanor. In some of those places, prosecutors can require youngsters to take courses on the dangers of social media instead of charging them with a crime.
Colorado’s sexting review started after a 2015 scandal in Canon City, where more than 100 high school students were found with explicit images of other teens. Dozens of students were suspended, and the football team forfeited the final game of the season.
Fremont County prosecutors ultimately decided against filing any criminal charges, saying Colorado law doesn’t properly distinguish between adult sexual predators and misbehaving teenagers.