Before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee today is a bill that district attorneys across the state hope will help modernize the state’s sexual exploitation on a child and child pornography laws.
Twenty-first Judicial Chief Deputy District Attorney Trish Mahre described today’s standards as “antiquated.”
“We have been using old solutions from the 20th century to combat a 21st century problem,” she said.
Mahre, who supervises crimes against children in Mesa County, worked with the Colorado District Attorney’s Council to provide local perspective in the crafting of the bill.
According to its summary, the bill updates sexual exploitation of a child laws to reflect access and viewing due to evolving technology.
It seeks to enhance the presumptive sentencing range if the sexually exploitative material depicts a child who is under 12 years old, as well as for victims subjected to the actual application of physical force or violence, or subjected to sexual intercourse, sexual intrusion or sadomasochism.
CDAC Sexual Assault Resource Prosecutor Amanda Gall said the bill was brought out of the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office on the Front Range.
“The issue is we don’t keep videos on video cassettes anymore and don’t keep photos in photo albums,” she explained. “We stream things live now. It’s the same for child pornography.”
With the wide use of cloud-based services, technology has enabled child predators to share, create and store easier than ever before, sometimes where it’s not stored on a local computer.
According to current Colorado law, individuals are punished based on whether they are in possession of child pornography, how many child pornographic images they are found with, and how many times they have been found with child pornographic images, among other factors.
Gall said the bill looks to move away from the count and number of images and looks to punish individuals more based on the content.
“Punish content of image not quantity,” she said. “There’s a broad range of behavior and this bill looks to give judges more discretion. There’s been no substantive change in over a decade to child porn laws.”
CDAC spokesman Michael Teague said the bill adds language to encompass cloud-based data and live streaming, rather than just looking at media saved on a local computer.
It also creates extraordinary risk sentencing for the type of child porn rather than the current standard of the amount possessed.
Finally, it provides resources to rural law enforcement agencies for technical analysis.
“Most images/recordings of child pornography depict real children, often suffering actual sexual abuse,” Mahre said. “The internet has really changed the type of victimization that children can endure and enlarged the ability of many pedophiles to access such images or recordings.”
Mahre said the current statute doesn’t tell the full scope of what they are doing.
“Numbers don’t always represent (the full scope),” she explained about the current statute.
She also agreed the law should reflect a harsher sentence for crimes against children who are very young and the kind of abuse that is being alleged.
“Our current laws don’t give harsher punishment based on age or substance of what is being exploited. Someone possessing material of egregious nature should have more significant punishment than just a provocative sexually exploitative image of child,” said said. “We want to make the laws contemporary with today’s technology.”
The House Judiciary Committee will vote on the bill this afternoon.