Sometimes the government really is out to get you.

In 2012, a 15-year-old male referred to in court documents as T.B. met two girls during a Future Farmers of America conference. He kept in contact with the two after the conference and exchanged nude photos with them.

Six months later, in March 2013, T.B. was arrested for unrelated sexual assault charges. He was later acquitted by a jury. During the course of the investigation, police found the nude photos of the two women on T.B.’s cell phone and charged him with two counts of sexually exploiting a child, according to Reason’s Jacob Sullum.

T.B. was charged, but the two girls were not, even though one of the girls was two years older than T.B. The Colorado teenager was sentenced “to concurrent, two-year terms of juvenile sex offender probation, and required him to register as a sex offender,” according to court documents.

Make no mistake, none of these teenagers should have been prosecuted for something nearly all teenagers do.

Colorado law regarding the sexual exploitation of a child at the time of T.B.’s sentencing was interpreted broadly. A new law has since been passed ensuring teenagers who exchange nude photos are not prosecuted.

T.B. attempted to appeal his punishment. The Colorado Supreme Court last week ruled that T.B. is basically out of luck because he was charged under the old law. Of course, he never needed to be charged. Ken White, an attorney who regularly uses Twitter to comment on legal matters, pointed out that the “law’s not something abstract that just happens to people. Police and prosecutors decided to make this case.”

Scott Greenfield, another attorney, mocked the idea that vague laws would never be used against people in “absurd” ways.

“Don’t worry about badly written vague and overbroad law. No prosecutor would prosecute. No court would apply it as written. That would never happen because that would be absurd,” Greenfield tweeted.

Three justices on Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled for the majority that T.B.’s punishment would remain, but acknowledged that their decision “may strike some as unfair, especially given the recent changes in the law addressing juvenile sexting behavior.”

Justices Richard Gabriel and Melissa Hart dissented, arguing that the photos on T.B.’s phone never constituted “sexual exploitation of a child, and the juvenile should not be branded as a sex offender for having participated in such foolish—albeit not uncommon—acts.”

Gabriel, who wrote the minority’s dissent, said the fact that T.B. was charged but not the women “raises the specter of selective enforcement of this statute based on gender.”

Gabriel also wrote that he was “troubled by the fact that, based solely on timing, a person in the juvenile’s position faces either an adjudication that will brand him as a sex offender (and require him to register as such) or simply a civil penalty.” Colorado’s current law requires those who engage in similar acts as T.B. pay a $50 fine.

“To me, this vast difference in consequences presents serious equal protection concerns,” Gabriel wrote.

Colorado is not the only state with draconian laws regarding teenage “sexting.” The American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington state affiliate wrote a friend of the court brief in April 2017 objecting to a 17-year-old’s punishment. That teenager sent a sexually explicit photo of himself to a young adult woman. She reported him and he was charged with a “felony sex offense of dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct — a law typically used to prosecute child pornographers,” the ACLU wrote.

The male teenager was treated as both the perpetrator and the victim of the crime.

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