very bad laws

Sexting As a Teen in Colorado Could Make You a Sex Offender for Life

Photo: Miodrag Gajic/Getty Images

A warning to the teens of Colorado: Lay off the sexting. It might inadvertently ruin your life.

Currently, Colorado has some of the harshest penalties for underage sexting. The Daily Beast points out that, in Colorado, teens under 15 can consent to having sex with someone up to four years older than them, teens between 15 and 16 can consent to having sex with someone up to ten years older than them, and 17 is the legal age of consent.

However, just because teens can legally have sex doesn’t mean that they can legally sext — and if they do it and get caught, they can face insanely harsh punishment, like having to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives.

Colorado lawmakers are aware of this discrepancy and are working to create new laws to better deal with teen sexting. The Washington Post reports that lawmakers are currently stalling on passing a bill that would significantly reduce charges for teen sexters, reducing it to a misdemeanor. But some argue that even that punishment is too harsh, considering just how popular sexting is.

Those in favor of the bill, like representative Yeulin Willet say that it’s important that teens can be charged. “To say that this is a victimless situation is just not a fact,” he said. “These images get stolen, hacked, now they end up in the hands of thousands or more via digital media, and now you have a suicidal young girl. What started out as a consensual situation, the problem is the permanent damage. It lasts forever.”

But others, like Jennifer Eyl, the director of family stability programs at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, don’t think teens should be charged at all. She expressed concern that “the most vulnerable children,” like those in foster care, are most susceptible to being charged for crimes like sexting.

She also noted, “While we hope parents and schools are educating kids about the risks of [sexting], about the risks of where pictures could end up and the fact that they might exist on the internet forever, we don’t want it to be criminalized at that level.”

So a note to teens in Colorado: Until lawmakers figure out all this funny business, maybe stick to PG snaps.

A Message for Teens in Colorado: Do Not Sext