The Hot Topics section provides information on certain topics that may have been in the news or that may otherwise be high profile. The District Attorney's Office often recognizes and addresses issues that may have a serious impact in our community.
Teen Targets of Identity Theft | Juveniles in the Justice System | Sextortion | Sexting
Power Against Fraud for Teens
Teen Targets of Identity Theft
Identity theft is not a crime unique to adults. In fact, the percentage of teens as identity theft victims is on the rise.
Teenagers are increasingly vulnerable as their world becomes dominated by electronic communication devices. Today’s teens all have cell phones. Most have smart phones with all the bells and whistles – the popular apps, GPS, webcams, etc. They also have access to credit cards, online shopping and popular game sites. All involve the exchange of personal and/or financial information.
Social networking sites like FaceBook invite unsuspecting teens to post personal identifying information that can easily be used by someone who claims to be a “friend”, but is actually someone “phishing” for information.
Identify thieves are savvy and slick. The Internet provides a protective screen for their crimes. They can be phishing for personal and financial information from another state, or another country, which makes it difficult or impossible for police and prosecutors to bring them to justice. Once someone’s identity has been compromised it can take up to seven years and thousands of dollars to repair the damage.
Teens are particularly vulnerable in that they often don’t think ahead or consider possible negative consequences. It simply doesn’t occur to them that that there are those who would take advantage of them or target them for criminal activity.
The District Attorney’s Office offers free Power Against Fraud presentations tailored to students, parents and teacher groups. Call Cary Johnson at 303-271-6980 to schedule a free presentation.
The District Attorney Speaks Out
Juveniles in the Justice System
The District Attorney’s Office strives to provide accurate information to the public when not prohibited by law or court order. Juvenile justice records are protected by law (Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statues) and therefore not considered public documents. This prevents the District Attorney, courts or law enforcement from talking about a juvenile criminal case or releasing records or reports. The release of case reports, records, or information by a parent of a child with a pending case does not alter the District Attorney’s restrictions.
The juvenile justice system is designed to protect the due process rights of youth. The system acts as a shield for juveniles who may commit a delinquent act or an act that would be criminal were the act committed by an adult. The protection of information in juvenile cases allows juveniles to resolve their issues in the justice system privately, avoiding what can be embarrassing community attention. Juveniles have the option of having their cases expunged which allows a juvenile to avoid a criminal history that follows them into adulthood.
Juvenile cases are handled differently than adult cases. In Jefferson County we have a Juvenile Assessment Center where youth are assessed at the beginning of the process to determine the best court of action. Jefferson County also has a juvenile mental health court which provides resources to juveniles, and their families, who struggle with mental health issues.
The juvenile criminal justice system operates according to the premise that youth are fundamentally different than adults, both in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation. Family- and community-based dispositions are often found to be the best resolution in many cases.
The latest in Internet and Cell Phone danger for teens
Many teenagers take sexually explicit or even nude pictures of themselves and send them to others either online or through text messaging. This is called “sexting”. Sexting occurs more frequently than parents can imagine. These photos become “sextortion” when they are used as a tool of exploitation or extortion.
A Colorado teenage girl made the mistake of sending her naked picture to a 20-year-old man in California. This teenage girl thought this young man liked her and she had feelings for him. She accepted him as a friend on Facebook site. After receiving the teenage girl’s naked picture, the man threatened her, telling her that if she didn’t send him $1,500 dollars or send him more naked pictures of herself, he would send her naked picture to all her friends on Facebook.
The teenage girl was faced with the possibility of her naked picture being distributed to all her friends and felt pressured to comply. The teenager finally told her mother, who then alerted law enforcement. This 20-year-old man was identified and prosecuted. He was sentenced to prison.
These “sextortion” cases are very concerning to law enforcement as frightened victims might give in to demands such as posing for explicit photos, having sex with the perpetrator or sending them money.
District Attorney Investigator Mike Harris asks parents and possible victims of “sextortion” to report incidents to law enforcement. These threats and demands need to be investigated and the suspects stopped. Find more information on Sextortion and other Internet-related matters on the Internet Investigations page.
Balancing the Law, Teens and Technology
The District Attorney’s Office has developed a new approach to “sexting." This precarious pastime, a growing phenomenon with young people, is sending sexually explicit photos and video of themselves over the Internet. The combination of teenagers’ age-old sexual curiosity, bad judgment and their love of modern electronic data sharing can have devastating consequences.
In March 2009, a Cincinnati teen committed suicide after sexually explicit photos she sent to her boyfriend were emailed to others after they broke up. The teen was humiliated and harassed at school. She was miserable and became afraid to even go to school. In desperation, she took her own life.
One in five teens admits to taking nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sending them to someone or posting them online. None of these teens ever consider the possible repercussions. Those photos are not retrievable from cyberspace. They never think that the trusted friend or boyfriend to whom the explicit photos were sent or their “friends” on their social networking site would ever pass them on.
Teens also never consider the fact that sexting is illegal if the photographed person is under 18 years of age. It is illegal to possess the naked pictures, and an even more serious offense, to send them or post them online.
The District Attorney’s Office has tools and tips for parents on their website hoping to prevent sexting.
The District Attorney's Office in Jefferson and Gilpin Counties has developed a protocol to use in some of these cases as they are presented by law enforcement believing that often the conduct is more of a boundary problem than a sex offense. But the District Attorney must be the one to make that determination. A curriculum was designed to address teenage boundary issues without charging the teen with a sex offense. But having naked pictures of any teen under 18 on your cell phone or MySpace page is a crime which can result in serious consequences including sex offender registration.
We strongly encourage parents to interact with their kids and their online activities. Supervising your kids in cyberspace is not snooping or invading their privacy, its just good parenting.
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Last Modified: Feb 1, 2013 02:11 PM