In many circumstances, a minor does not face the same penalties for criminal acts as adults do for the same crime. This is largely due to the fact that juveniles are given a more of a chance to reform and change their ways – and deserve a second chance for mistakes they make before they’re adults.
However, when it comes to Colorado sex crimes, juveniles can face a daunting penalty: they may have to register as sex offenders. This is something that can impact the rest of their lives.
Here’s what you need to know about juvenile sex crimes in Colorado and what can happen if a juvenile is convicted.
SORNA and Minor Sex Offenses
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is a part of a larger act from 2006 called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Under SORNA, minor children may be subject to the same registration requirements if convicted of a sex offense as an adult is subject to.
The registration requirements apply only if the minor convicted is age 14 or older at the time the crime occurred. They must also be convicted of one of these following acts in the commission of a sex crime:
- Use of force
- Use of drugs or other methods that rendered the victim unconscious
- Use of the threat of violence
This is a federal law, but each state has its own laws that impact sex offenses by minors.
Sex Offenses in Colorado
There are a few sex offense charges that can possibly result in a minor being required to register as a sex offender in our state. These include:
Sexual Assault on a Child
In Colorado, sexual assault on a child by underage juveniles is a serious crime. It is committed in the state when a person has sexual contact with a child who is younger than 15 by a perpetrator who is at least four years older.
Sexual assault on a child is a Class 4 felony. If the circumstances call for it, however, it can be a Class 3 felony. A Class 3 felony is often charged when the perpetrator uses threats or force in order to get a child to have sexual contact with them.
What makes this problematic for some juveniles is that they may have sex with an underage girlfriend or boyfriend who is at least four years younger than they are. In this case, the juvenile can be charged and convicted of a Class 4 felony and they will be required to register as a sex offender forever.
This isn’t a consequence that many young people think of when they choose to explore a sexual relationship, but it is a possible real-world consequence if the police get involved.
Internet Sexual Exploitation
Whenever someone knowingly invites, entices, or importunes a person they know to be under the age of 15 and at least four years younger than they are through the internet or by text message, they are committing Internet Sexual Exploitation of a Child.
Specifically, the law states that chatting with someone under 15 over a computer or data network, through instant message, or text message and asking them to expose or touch their own or another person’s genitals or observing their genitals is considered Internet Sexual Exploitation of a Child.
That’s right. Something that can seem innocent between two juveniles — such as texting or “sexting” — can lead to charges if one of the participants is under the age of 15 and the other is at least four years older. Receiving photos or using video chats and video apps such as Snapchat can also apply.
This offense is a Class 4 felony and will require the juvenile, if convicted, to register as a sex offender in Colorado and disclose the felony conviction when applying for employment. It can impact their right to possess a firearm as well.
Penalties for Sex Offenders in Colorado
Juvenile Sex Offenders can potentially be sentenced to the Department of Youth Corrections (DYC) and held until their 21st birthday.
For juveniles, a relationship or interaction they may not realize is illegal can have life-long consequences. Depending on the charge, it can be expunged upon completion of their sentence.
If you or someone you love finds themselves embroiled as a juvenile in a sex offense, then it’s important to understand your rights, your criminal defense, and what pleading guilty to any charges can result in.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.