group of teens on their phones

Is Sexting a Crime?

Can You go to Jail for Sexting?

In this day and age, everything is digital. People can access a wealth of content and the tip of their fingers. It’s easier than ever to send and receive photos, videos, texts, calls, and the like, but with great power comes great responsibility.

That being said, sexting is a relatively new phenomenon that is generally defined as the act of digitally sending or sharing sexually explicit content, which can include texts, photos, or videos. Nowadays, sexting has become widely popular among teens and young adults, which is why we feel the need to warn about the dangers of sexting. It could land you in jail.

Although it is legal for adults ages 18+ to sext in Colorado, sexting is a crime when it involves juveniles (under 18).

Can Two Juveniles Consent to Sexting?

The age of consent is 17 in Colorado, meaning anyone under 17 cannot legally consent to engage in sexual activity. Don’t be fooled — just because a 16-year-old eagerly and obviously agrees to text nude photos to their high school crush doesn’t mean they are legally allowed to. No matter the circumstances, juveniles can face criminal charges for sexting because they legally cannot give consent to the creation or distribution of sexually explicit content.

Is It Illegal for a Person Under 18 to Sext?

Colorado lawmakers understand that sexting is a common way to express romantic and sexual interest. In this digital age, it has become the norm, primarily for young people. However, juveniles could be punished with a civil infraction, punishable by a $50 fine and mandatory participation in a program addressing the risks and consequences of exchanging a sexually explicit image of a juvenile.

With these consequences in mind, it is a civil infraction for a juvenile to do the following through digital or electronic means:

  • Knowingly send a sexually explicit image or images of themself to another person who is at least 14 or less than 4 years younger than the juvenile, and:
    • the content depicts ONLY the sender; and
    • the sender reasonably believed that the recipient had solicited or otherwise agreed to the transmittal of the image or images
  • Knowingly possessing a sexually explicit image or images of another person who is at least 14 or less than 4 years younger than the juvenile, and:
    • the image or images depict only the sender and no other person; and
    • the juvenile reasonably believed that the depicted person had transmitted the image or images or otherwise agreed to the transmittal of the image or images

What Happens if a Juvenile Posts a Private Image?

The state of Colorado makes it a crime for juveniles to post a private image. Specifically, it is a crime for a juvenile to, through digital or electronic means, knowingly distribute, display, or publish a sexually explicit image another person who is at least 14 years old or less than 4 years younger than the juvenile under the following circumstances:

  • Without the depicted person's permission; or
  • When the recipient did not solicit or request to be supplied with the image and suffered emotional distress; or
  • When the juvenile knew or should have known that the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private.

Further, it is a class 2 misdemeanor for a juvenile to knowingly distribute, display, or publish a sexually explicit image of themselves to a person who’s at least 14 or less than 4 years younger than the juvenile, when the recipient did not solicit or request the image and suffered emotional distress. A conviction for this class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 fines.

However, a juvenile can get charged for a class 1 misdemeanor if:

  • They committed the offense with the intent to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or otherwise cause emotional distress to the depicted person; or
  • They had previously posted a private image and completed a diversion program or education program for the act pursuant to the provisions of the bill or had a prior adjudication for posting a private image by a juvenile; or
  • They distributed, displayed, or published 3 or more images that depicted 3 or more separate and distinct persons.

A conviction will result in 6 to 18 months in jail and/or $500 to $5,000 fines.

Penalty for Juveniles who Possess a Private Image

Just as it’s illegal for juveniles to send or otherwise share private images, it is a petty offense for juveniles to possess a digital or electronic sexually explicit image of another person who is at least 14 or less than 4 years younger than the juvenile without their permission. A petty offense can be enhanced to a class 2 misdemeanor if the juvenile possessed 10 or more separate images of 3 or more different people.

However, it is NOT a crime if the juvenile:

  • Took reasonable steps to either destroy or delete the image within 72 hours after initially viewing the image; or
  • Reported the initial viewing of such image to law enforcement or a school resource officer within 72 hours after initially viewing the image.

We Can Defend Your Child’s Freedom & Future

As you can see, these laws can greatly impact your child’s livelihood. Little would you know about what they do behind closed doors, and understandably so. But something you should know is that sexting is a “norm” for teens in both casual and romantic relationships that can land them with criminal charges.

With so much ahead of them, your child shouldn’t suffer legal consequences at such a young age. Their legal trouble should be more of a learning experience than a punishment in our eyes, which is why our Denver attorneys can defend your child if they’re facing these sexting-related charges that we’ve discussed.

To learn more, give us a call at (303) 732-5048!

Categories