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Colorado Criminal Law: Sexting Laws: ‘Sexting’ Now The Same As Internet Luring In Colorado

“Sexting” is the sending of nude or sexually suggestive pictures by electronic means (i.e. cellphone or other electronic devices) to another person. Sexcasting is the sending of live nude videovia a webcam.

The intent of the Sexual Exploitation of a Child law, fits the facts of most of these “sexting” cases, was written to charge adult sexual offenders with the exploitation of a child victim. However the law as written by the Colorado State Legislature did not contemplate or anticipate young people engaging in”sexting” behavior with each other based upon the evolution of cell phone technology.

With changing technology of camera cell phones and other technology, teenagers have started “sexting” and even though most teens know that “sexting” can have serious negative consequences, they do not think of it as a potential criminal offense. Sending sexual images of minors, even of yourself, is against the law.

Teens who exchange sexually explicit photos of themselves via cell phone or other electronic device can be and have been charged and adjudicated for Sexual Exploitation of a Child, which requires registration as a juvenile who has committed a sexual offense in Colorado.

A new law in Colorado – signed by the Governor on June 10, 2009;

Clarifies that the crime of internet sexual exploitation of a child applies to an individual the actor knows or believes to be under the age of 15 and at least four years younger than the actor. clarifies that previous convictions for child abuse in Colorado or another state apply to the aggravated sentencing provisions for that offense. Modifies the crime of sexual exploitation of a child by possession of sexually exploitative material to include the possession of one video recording of child pornography. Currently, it is a class 4 felony to possess more than 20 different items of sexually exploitative material and, under the bill, one video recording would essentially equal the current 20 items.

If your teenagers are involved in a criminal action regarding sexting, contact an experienced Denver Colorado criminal attorney to learn about your options.

Sexting

Colorado District Attorneys are struggling with how to prosecute these difficult cases. They know that the offending teens don’t necessarily need jail time for this crime, nor do they need to be registered sex offenders, however the impact of these crimes on the victim in their peer pressured world cannot also not be discounted.

What is needed is court-ordered counseling called “boundries counseling” to comprehend the importance of respecting their own bodies and developing self-esteem.

Boundaries Counseling

A Boundary Counseling Program is for juveniles who have engaged in inappropriate same-age touching or sexual behaviors, generally in a school setting. A typical boundary program targets responsibility, respect, an understanding of appropriate use of power and control and an understanding of sexual coercion, expectations, and refusals. This counseling program is generally multiple sessions, including a session for intake, a home or school session to coordinate treatment and meet with informed support persons, and an exit session with an identified personal safety plan that details the responsibilities of the juvenile to appropriately self-manage, as well as how parents/guardians or other significant support persons can provide supervision and guidance. If additional critical sexual behaviors are identified, the juvenile may move to a general sexual misbehavior program for therapy purposes to address additional issues. For those clients with developmental delays, cognitive challenges, and or a younger age, the curriculum would be scaled to their developmental/cognitive level.

Sexual Misbehavior Programs

Sexual Misbehavior Programs are typically as follows: Initially juveniles attend group four nights weekly as they prepare their own sexual history to be addressed in therapy and then move to twice weekly with appropriate behaviors, accountability, and trust . Generally these kids are on probation, but the program accepts non-court involved youth as well. Therapy emphasizes changing patterns of thinking that are related to sexual offending and sexual acting out behaviors and changing these deviant patterns of arousal. The focus tends to be on the “here and now” of how the juvenile thinks, feels and behaves and less on trying to identify root causes for their behavior. Treatment stresses increasing the juvenile’s empathy and concern for the victims (primary and secondary) and recognition of their responsibility for their actions. Juveniles learn to identify a range of risk factors, often a combination of thoughts, feelings and situations and develop and practice effective coping strategies to manage these risk factors over the long term. Therapists work with victim offender contact and clarification where the victim is in therapy and all parties support reunification.

Law Enforcement Response – Inconsistent

However, several law enforcement agencies in the state are not hesitating to prosecute sexting offenders as criminals, because according to Colorado laws, sexting is considered child pornography. Whenever nude photographs of a minor are distributed to others, the laws protecting children from pornography and exploitation come into play, making “sexting” very much a sex crime. In fact, it is considered a felony, which means county prosecutors will be forced to treat them accordingly, whether they want to or not.

Does Colorado Law Need to Change?

Currently, sexting legally falls under Colorado’s sexual offender laws, making the penalties pretty severe for what is considered a consensual act among minors. No one wants to make sexting legally acceptable, but legal agencies need to realize how communication has changed among young people. Instead of calling their friends or spending time with one another in person, many teens find themselves hiding behind the protective “shield” of text-messaging, social media and instant-messaging. Using these means, they are able to project to one another an image of how they want to be perceived. In fact, electronic messaging is the most common form of communication among teenagers. While they definitely need to learn responsible, lawful communication skills, their preference for electronic communication may require some adaptation of the law.

If you are concerned about how a sexting charge may affect you or your teenager, contact a Denver criminal attorney today.

The new law has gone into effect that makes it illegal to lure a child under the age of 15 by sending sexually explicit text messages or pictures through a cell phone. Internet luring previously just involved the use of a computer, but with the technological advances in cell phones, the law was amended.

“The problem was, Internet luring and Internet sexual exploitation was to be done online, and a lot of those people move from online and go straight to cell phones,” said Mike Harris, a senior investigator with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations Unit. “Internet luring was applicable because a lot of judicial judges didn’t believe that a cell phone was a computer. So we cleaned up that language so Internet luring or Internet sexual exploitation can be done on the computer or a cell phone because technically nowadays cell phones are computers.”

Parents, school districts, and law-enforcement officials have been grappling with what to do with teenagers who take sexually explicit photos of themselves with their cell phone cameras and sent them to friends.

While rare – and subject to a District Attorney’s discretion sexting may result in a charge of sexual exploitation of children. A felony usually reserved for sexual predators who handle child pornography. Having a lewd picture of a minor is a felony. It is also a felony to send a lewd picture of a minor to anyone. Most teens and many of their parents don’t have a clue about the potential problems caused by this type of behavior.

State legislatures have been cracking down on sexual predators in recent years, but lawmakers in Vermont and Ohio say they don’t want increasingly tough penalties applied to those caught up in what many regard as a youthful fad.

Prosecutors around the country have tried various approaches against teenagers who used cell phones, eMail, or social-networking web sites to transmit naughty pictures of themselves.

A 14-year-old New Jersey girl was arrested for posting nude pictures of herself on MySpace in 2009. She was charged with child pornography and distribution of child pornography for allegedly posting nearly 30 explicit pictures on the site. But it’s likely she’ll avoid jail because she’s a juvenile, according to a prosecutor handling the case.

In Pennsylvania, 17 students involved in distributing photos of nude or scantily clad female classmates accepted a county prosecutor’s offer that their cases would be resolved if they participated in a five-week after-school program on sexual harassment and similar topics. Three balked and sued in federal court to stop prosecutors from filing charges.

In Ohio, a 15-year-old high school girl faced charges for sending racy cell phone photos of herself to classmates. She eventually agreed to a curfew, no cell phone, and supervised internet usage.

In Vermont, authorities have charged an 18-year-old from Morrisville, Isaac Owusu, with directing two teenage girls to videotape or photograph themselves performing sex acts on themselves and send the results to him. The defense maintains the girls were willing participants.

In that case, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said Owusu’s directing the events is what resulted in charges. But he agreed with backers of the legislation that volunteering to take and send racy photos of oneself shouldn’t result in criminal charges.”I don’t think it serves any public interest to paint those kids … as sex offenders,” said Donovan, chief prosecutor in Vermont’s most populous county.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he sympathized with Vermont officials for not wanting to exact heavy penalties for a teenager’s foolishness. But he worries that exempting the behavior could have the unintended consequence of immunizing genuine sexual predators from prosecution.

“Our concern is that decriminalizing sexting is a blanket response that is too broad to a problem that is best handled on a case-by-case basis,” Allen said. Donovan, Allen, and others agreed that the real solution is educating teens about the risks of sexting.

Allen said his group’s “Think Before You Post” campaign was aimed at getting children to think about the practical consequences of sending materials that can be reproduced and end up living on the internet forever.Marisa Nightingale, senior advisor with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said that many teens who send sexting messages do so as a joke. “But you’re basically relinquishing control of how people see you in this very sensitive area, which is your sexuality,” she said.

Did you also know that if your child is caught sharing an inappropriate picture of him/herself or is caught sharing a photo of someone else that they can be charged with child pornography? They can be listed as a sex offender, a title that will dog them for life. Whether a judge will decide on that harsh a treatment for a 13 to 15 year old boy or girl is, of course, up to the court and how much of an example it wants to set for others.

Here’s some examples recently in the news:

At Lawrence School in Falmouth, Massachusetts, six middle school boys could face felony child pornography charges in a sexting incident in January ’09. Kudos to Principal Paul Fay who posted a letter to parents on the school web site informing them of the incident and asking that parents take an active part in talking to their children about the dangers of this practice.

More on “Sexting.”

On March 6th, NBC’s Today Show reported the story of Jesse Logan, an 18-year old girl in Cincinnati who committed suicide over “sexting”. Jesse had sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent the photos to other high school girls out of spite. These girls were harassing Jesse, calling her a “s**t” and a “w****”. Jesse was miserable and depressed, afraid even to go to school. Jesse’s mother, Cynthia Logan, spoke to Matt Lauer about her experience. “I just had a scan of the room, her closet doors were open,” Logan told him. “And I walked over into her room and saw her hanging. The cell phone was in the middle of the floor.” www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29546030/

If you are a parent and you are not disturbed by this story, you should be. “Sexting” is the growing phenomenon of young people sending sexually suggestive messages and digital photos and video over the Internet and over cell phones. While it is important for parents to understand what sexting is, how pervasive the problem is, I want to also give parents a valuable tool to help protect their children and their community from the dangers that teenagers’ bad decisions involving sexting can bring.

How Big of a Problem is Sexting?

At present, it is estimated that about 90% of teens and young adults are online. Current statistics indicate that 1/3 of all teens or pre-teens in the United States carry a cell phone, and about 25% of all cell phone revenues come from this age group.

Between September 25 th and October 3, 2008, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com commissioned a survey of teens and young adults to explore sexting. This was the first public study of its kind to quantify the proportion of teens and young adults that are sending or posting sexually suggestive text and images. (www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/)

According to the results, 39 percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48 percent reported receiving such messages. Twenty percent of teens have sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or video of themselves, and 25 percent of teen girls and 33 percent of teen boys say they have had nude or semi-nude images — originally meant for someone else — shared with them. Fifty-one percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images.

Sextortion in Colorado – An Escalation of Sexting

SEXTORTION: The Latest in Internet and Cell Phone Danger for Teens

Many teenagers take sexually explicit or even nude pictures of themselves and send them to others either online or through text messaging. This is called “Sexting”. Sexting occurs more frequently than parents can imagine. These photos become “Sextortion” when they are used as a tool of exploitation or extortion.

Recently a Colorado teenage girl made the mistake of sending her naked picture to a 20-year-old man in California. This teenage girl thought this young man liked her and she had feelings for him. She accepted him as a friend on Facebook site. After receiving the teenage girl’s naked picture, the man threatened her, telling her that if she didn’t send him $1500.00 dollars or send him more naked pictures of herself, he would send her naked picture to all her friends on Facebook.

The teenage girl was faced with the possibility of her naked picture being distributed to all her friends and felt pressured to comply. The teenager finally told her mother, who then alerted law enforcement. This 20-year-old man was identified and prosecuted. He was sentenced to prison.

Five Tips To Help Parents Talk To Their Kids About Sex And Technology

1. Talk to your kids about what they are doing in cyberspace.

Just as you need to talk openly and honestly with your kids about real life sex and relationships, you also want to discuss online and cell phone activity. Make sure your kids fully understand that messages or pictures they send over the Internet or their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous. Also make sure they know that others might forward their pictures or messages to people they do not know or want to see them, and that school administrators and employers often look at online profiles to make judgments about potential students/employees. It’s essential that your kids grasp the potential short-term and long-term consequences of their actions.

2. Know who your kids are communicating with.

Of course it’s a given that you want to know who your children are spending time with when they leave the house. Also do your best to learn who your kids are spending time with online and on the phone. Supervising and monitoring your kids’ whereabouts in real life and in cyberspace doesn’t make you a nag; it’s just part of your job as a parent. Many young people consider someone a “friend” even if they’ve only met online. What about your kids?

3. Consider limitations on electronic communication.

The days of having to talk on the phone in the kitchen in front of the whole family are long gone, but you can still limit the time your kids spend online and on the phone. Consider, for example, telling your teen to leave the phone on the kitchen counter when they’re at home and to take the laptop out of their bedroom before they go to bed, so they won’t be tempted to log on or talk to friends at 2:00 a.m.

4. Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly.

Check out your teen’s MySpace, Facebook and other public online profiles from time to time. This isn’t snooping-this is information your kids are making public. If everyone else can look at it, why can’t you? Talk with them specifically about their own notions of what is public and what is private. Your views may differ but you won’t know until you ask, listen, and discuss.

5. Set expectations.

Make sure you are clear with your teen about what you consider appropriate “electronic” behavior. Just as certain clothing is probably off-limits or certain language unacceptable in your house, make sure you let your kids know what is and is not allowed online either. And give reminders of those expectations from time to time. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust your kids, it just reinforces that you care about them enough to be paying attention.

Use Technological Tools For Parents

Rather than either fearing technology, or surrendering to it — I suggest parents use it. While there are several commercial Internet filter software tools for parents to keep their kids safe while surfing the Internet, and most parents can monitor their kids while on the computer in a common family room, parents have had little success in supervising their kids’ use of cell phones. Cell phones are mobile, and the incoming text messages and images can be deleted by tech-savvy kids.

What is a parent to do?

RADAR ® – My Mobile Watchdog is a software product offered by eAgency Software, Inc., that is available for parents to download upon their kids’ cell phones to help parents monitor their kids’ activities. This RADAR software is simply amazing — every parent needs to hear about it. The software’s highlights are these:

A detailed record of every telephone number calling into the monitored cell phone, or called by the cell phone, and the full content of all incoming and outgoing text messages and digital images, is maintained on secured servers for the parents’ online review at any time. This self-certifying record is available to be printed out for easy transmission and use by law enforcement agencies and courts.

Parents and their child can develop, together, a “safe list” of other persons whom the child can call and receive calls/texts without setting of a parental alert. Should the child receive a telephone call or a text/photo from any person/telephone number not on this “safe list”, the parent is immediately alerted, with a message being sent, within seconds, to the parents’ choice of the parent’s cell phone, pager, or email – including the full text/photo.

It is not illegal “spyware”, as it does not record audio conversations over the cell phone and at least every 24 hours the phone displays the message “this phone is monitored by RADAR” – reminding the user.

I think one of the best things about this RADAR software is that it gives the parent the great opportunity to talk to their child about safe cell phone usage, and the child knows the parent’s supervision is intended to keep them safe. During times of uncertainty, the teenager’s knowledge that their parent will have access to their texts/photos from their cell phones might just give them the excuse to just say ‘no’. Jesse Logan may have been able to keep from sliding down that slippery slope of regret and despair.

It is recommended that every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or anyone who knows a parent, check out RADAR at www.mymobilewatchdog.com

Several Conclusions Are Obvious From This Survey:

A significant number of teens have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves.

How many teens (ages 13-19) say they have sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or video of themselves?

20% of teens overall

22% of teen girls

18% of teen boys

11% of young teen girls (ages 13-16)

Sexually suggestive messages (text, email, IM) are even more prevalent than sexually suggestive images.

How many teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages?

39% of all teens

37% of teen girls

40% of teen boys

48% of teens say they have received such messages

Teens and young adults are sending sexually explicit messages and images, even though they know such content often gets shared with those other than the intended recipient.

How common is it to share sexy messages and images with those other than the intended recipient?

44% of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

Who are these sexually suggestive messages and images being sent to

71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.

21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.

15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

Young people who receive nude/semi-nude images and sexually suggestive texts and emails are sharing them with other people for whom they were never intended.

How many teens and young adults say they have been shown nude/semi-nude content originally meant for someone else?

38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails- originally meant for someone else-shared with them.

25% of teen girls and 33% of teen boys say they have had nude or semi-nude images-originally meant for someone else-shared with them.

Why do teens and young adults send or post sexually suggestive content?

51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18% of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.

23% of teen girls and 24% of teen boys say they were pressured by friends to send or post sexual content.

Among teens who have sent sexually suggestive content:

66% of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”- their most common reason for sending sexy content.

52% of teen girls did so as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.

44% of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.

40% of teen girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”

34% of teen girls say they sent/posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”

12% of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.

H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Sex Crimes “Sexting” Lawyer


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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