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Should teen “sexting” offense mandate sex offender registration?

Colorado frequently garners media space in news outlets across the country. Stories concerning the state often underscore its matchless beauty and unparalleled status as a ground central locale for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Not every bit of attention that comes the state’s way is positive, though, as referenced by a slew of recent news stories focused upon a single and decidedly narrow criminal law topic.

What those reports prominently spotlight is a case termed in one news source as “misapplied justice.” Following is a bit of clarifying detail.

A young Colorado male teenager exchanged erotic pictures online with two similarly aged girls back in 2012. State law at that time required an individual convicted of such a “sexting” offense to formally register as a sex offender.

State lawmakers repealed that law two years ago, but that move was too late to allow the boy to skirt the requirement. He was recently forced to register, for a period up to 20 years.

The Colorado Supreme Court upheld that outcome, despite acknowledgment from the bench that the tribunal harbored some discomfort in doing so. The justices stated that, while the same charge the boy faced no longer yields a registry requirement, they felt bound to apply the sentencing outcome that was in force at the time he was convicted.

Myriad national news accounts criticize and lament that result. One of them – an Ohio-based outlet – cites the outcome and notes that the same result could occur in Ohio absent a change in its laws. That news source actively promotes a repeal of existing Ohio legislation that closely mirrors Colorado’s former law.

There is a two-sided twist to the tale. On the one hand, most people might reasonably regard the outcome visited upon the Colorado youth as a wrong and unfortunate application of law. On the other hand, though, they can easily applaud the fact that legislators did eventually get things rights by noting that most cases of youthful sexting should not result in decades-long criminal penalties of a heightened and stigmatizing nature.

Questions or concerns regarding youthful criminal acts can be directed to an established and proven team of criminal defense attorneys having a deep well of experience representing juvenile offenders.

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