At the first of the year, Colorado will have a new law allowing for less-severe penalties for teen sexting.
The law creates misdemeanor crime for juvenile sexting and is a compromise bill that comes after years of debate of whether it should be illegal for minors to share illicit photos consensually.
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke worked on the bill and talked to many adult and youth groups about the problems of teen sexting.
“The biggest thing that we have learned is that this is going on in every middle school, in every high school, not just in Weld County, but I think it’s going on in every school in the state,” he told Anne Trujillo on this week’s Politics Unplugged.
He tells parents that if their kids aren’t sexting chances are their kids’ friends are.
“Everywhere from sixth grade through twelfth grade, this is behavior that our kids are engaged in,” he said.
Rourke says under the old law the only option was to charge kids with a felony that brought with it a lot of collateral consequences if convicted, including having to register as a sex offender, not being eligible for federal student financial aid when they went to college, and never being able to legally possess a firearm.
He says the new law isn’t a sex offense, and because it’s only a misdemeanor it gives parents and authorities a chance to intervene with the kids and educate them about what the consequences could be if they were ever convicted of a more serious offense.
But he says the best thing may be good old fashioned parental conversations on the topic.
“Have a conversation with them to allow them to understand and learn the long-term consequences this sexting behavior can really have on their lives,” he added.
Politics Unplugged airs Sundays at 4:30am and 4pm on Denver7.