Colorado Supreme Court bars multiple convictions based on number of images

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By Michael Karlik . . .

The Colorado Supreme Court has clarified that no matter how many pornographic images an individual possesses, sexual exploitation of a child merits a single charge, which prosecutors had derogatorily deemed a “volume discount on child pornography.”

Following the decision, multiple state legislators agreed that the guidelines for prosecuting the crime should spark a conversation given the court’s interpretation.

“What does justice look like for child pornography, be it one image or 10 images or 1,000 images?” asked Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “All I have to say is it all has the same damage.”

At issue was whether prosecutors may charge a defendant per image of a child or, in the case of Joshua Christian Bott, group images together in batches of at least 20 to pursue the longer sentence for possession of more than 20 items. El Paso County prosecutors charged Bott with 12 counts of possessing more than 20 items, covering nearly 300 images in total.

Bott appealed his conviction, arguing he should have only received a single charge for possessing more than 20 images. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with him and reversed 11 of his 12 convictions. The three-judge panel decided Bott’s multiple convictions violated the constitutional protection against double jeopardy for imposing more than one punishment for a single act.

Without explicit authorization to the contrary, the General Assembly intended the possession of more than 20 items to be a single act, regardless of the number of images, the justices decided.

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