We hear the stories all the time – a person is bullied or harassed
repeatedly online, and no one hears about it or acts until it is too late.
With the prevalence of social media in our everyday lives, there is also
an increase in the possible crimes we can see from its use.
In 2015, the Colorado Legislature enacted a new section of the Harassment
Statute (C.R.S. 18-9-111) referred to Kiana Arellano’s Law. The
law was inspired by a high school student who attempted suicide after
a nasty Facebook campaign by her classmates.
This section expanded the Harassment statute to include social media along
with unwanted or obscene communication by telephone. The law not only
includes repeated and unwanted phone calls, but text messages, instant
messages, social media posts, social media messages, or other interactive
electronic medium. Prior to its’ enactment, going to law enforcement
to report the harassment was not an option. The police didn’t have
a remedy and there was no way to charge the perpetrators with a crime.
Kiana Arellano’s Law changed the way the police can investigate and
charge harassment. Now harassing another person over Facebook, Instagram
or Twitter is a misdemeanor crime punishable with a fine up to $750, and
up to six months in jail. The law is in place to not only protect teens
but adults as well.
Colorado also responded to the need to address “revenge porn.”
Revenge porn is a form of nonconsensual photography, also referred to
as cyber exploitation. It’s is often committed by an ex-partner
posting or distributing an intimate photograph of a person without their
consent as a means to harass, embarrass or upset them. The law, C.R.S.
18-7-107, was enacted in 2014 and states a person over the age of eighteen
who posts or distributes via social media or any website a private image
of another individual over the age of eighteen for harassment commits
the offense of posting a private image for harassment.
Colorado’s statute specifically addresses the revenge porn crimes
as they pertain to adults. The charge is classified as a class one misdemeanor,
and carries a possible penalty of an eighteen-month jail sentence. In
addition to any sentence a court may impose, the law also gives the court
the ability to fine the offender up to $10,000.00. If the victim is under
the age of eighteen, the penalties may be considerable worse, and may
result in felony distribution of child pornography charges.
Cyberbullying and online harassment can have serious effects on victims,
and both laws may also have civil remedies in addition to the criminal
penalties for the perpetrators. If you or someone you know has been a
victim of online harassment or bullying, you may want to speak with an
experienced attorney about your rights and remedies under the law.