Teen sexting bill hits roadblock at State Capitol

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DENVER -- When the General Assembly session's sexting bill was introduced, the point was simple: Reduce the penalty for teenagers so it would deter them from doing it.

For instance, when hundreds of Cañon City High School students were caught sexting, no charges were filed because the only charge available to any district attorney was a felony and it would have required the teens to register as sex offenders.

The bill offered would make sexting a misdemeanor and, therefore, more likely that a DA would take action.

"We absolutely want to use this as a deterrent," Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubenstein said.

After initially receiving a warm reception, the bill is beginning to hit roadblocks. That was evident during one of its first hearings at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Sexual assault advocates said often when sexts become public, there are victims and they should never be charged with a crime.

"If we see this is going to impact victims negatively, we are going to have to oppose the bill," said Raana Simmons, policy director with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "That youth could be charged with a crime as it's currently addressed."

Simmons said her group fears victims would not come forward if they knew a criminal charge was more possible.

The bill's sponsors, Reps. Rhonda Fields and Yuelin Willett, defended their bill, even offering amendments to keep it alive.

"This body needs to address this," Willett said.

The bill was laid over by the committee. An official vote will take place at a later date.

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