The advent of smart phones with built-in cameras has created a new way in which people choose to capture and share images. These pictures can range from the mundane — such as an image of a meal or child playing — to the more extreme. A recent sexting scandal in Colorado schools not only prompted concerns among parents and administrators, but it also raised the question of whether the minors involved should be charged with sex offenses.

The involved students allegedly took indecent pictures of themselves while on school campuses that they then shared through secret apps on their smart phones. These photo-sharing applications were typically disguised as a different app in order to keep nude photos stashed on the phone without being easily accessed. When school and state authorities discovered that both middle and high school students were taking part in this activity, there was a significant amount of confusion as to whether any charges should be filed.

Colorado is one of 30 states nationwide that does not have any laws specifically pertaining to sexting, particularly to underage sexting. As a default, most courts instead fall back on laws regarding child pornography when it comes to minors exchanging nude pictures between themselves. While state authorities have currently decided not to file any type of criminal charge, they indicated that future participation in similar activity would likely result in formal charges being filed. Additionally, many of the students still face consequences from their local schools.

Minors involved in sexting scandals often face significant consequences for their youthful actions. Sex offenses involving minors are often considered to be felonies in Colorado, and if convicted, defendants must register as a sex offender, which is a lifelong burden that even minor offenders must sometimes shoulder. When charges are filed for alleged inappropriate or illegal sexting activity, it is often well advised for the accused to take timely action in regard to building the most stable foundation for a defense as possible.

Source: CNN, “DA: No charges for Colorado students in sexting scandal“, Greg Botelho and Michael Martinez, Dec. 9, 2015