May 14—The Colorado Legislature passes a bill that would make indecent exposure in the presence of young children for sexual purposes a felony.
House Bill 23-1135, which is awaiting Gov. Jared Polis’s signature, makes indecent exposure a Class 6 felony instead of a misdemeanor when “the person committing indecent exposure knew that there was a child under the age of 15 in view of the act.” and the person is over 18 years of age and over four years older than the child.”
The bill, sponsored by three Democrats and one Republican, was strongly supported by Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty’s office.
“District Attorney Dougherty and district attorneys across the state fought to improve this law,” the Boulder County District Attorney’s office said in a statement. “Our office has been working on this bill from the beginning… Our office thanked the legislators who agreed that this sex crime involving children should be reclassified as a felony.”
Dougherty, who testified in support of the bill, said the median age of victims of indecent exposure in Colorado over the past four years was just 11.
“It’s worth noting that current law classifies this conduct as a felony when done via a computer,” Dougherty said. “Doing it in person is just as concerning, if not more so.”
Dougherty said advocacy groups, including the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, also backed the bill.
“We are fighting for this change because it will better protect children who are targeted by people who intend to sexually arouse minors,” Dougherty said. “Acts of sexual abuse have an impact on the mental health of children. The felony charge and sentencing range reflect the seriousness of the crime while providing more intensive supervision and treatment requirements for offenders.” .
Class 6 felonies in Colorado are punishable by fines of $1,000 to $100,000 and 12 to 18 months in prison.
Some House Democrats opposed the bill out of concern that it would be used to target the transgender community.
“These types of laws have been used to ban drag shows, to target people who are using the bathroom, their gender identified, a public bathroom, to charge them with felonies,” said Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver during a bill discussion. “I am very concerned about the attacks against the transgender community that are happening across the country.”
But Dougherty said the new felony charge would only apply to offenders who prey on children.
“This bill focused on adults knowingly exposing themselves with sexual intent in front of a child under the age of 15,” Dougherty said. “Previously, it had only been a misdemeanor charge for a man masturbating in front of a child in a public place, such as (a) park or public library. The law has not and will not apply to showering, urination or performances. theatrical.
“But for the guy who masturbates in a park while looking directly at children, that conduct should be a felony, and now it will be.”