- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DENVER (AP) - A bill to crack down on cyberbullying appears headed to approval in the Colorado Senate.

The bill would make cyberbullying a misdemeanor harassment charge punishable by as much as $750 in fines and up to six months in county jail. The bill has already passed the Democratic House. It was approved 5-0 Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Republicans control.

A similar bill failed in the Senate last year. But that measure would have created a new crime of cyberbullying; this year’s bill simply adds the technique to existing anti-harassment law. The bill faces one more committee before a vote by the full Senate.

Since 2006, nearly three dozen states have enacted legislation to address cyberbullying, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Senators considering the cyberbullying bill Wednesday heard from the mother of Kiana Arellano, a Douglas County high school student who was the victim of repeated bullying on social media in 2013. Arellano looked on from her wheelchair, unable to speak after suffering brain damage in a suicide attempt.

Kristy Arellano told lawmakers that anonymous posters threatened her daughter, “called her horrible names” and “stated that she deserved to die.”

“These posts were what pushed her to the breaking point,” Kristy Arellano said, adding that police were unable to pursue the bully because of a lack of cyberbullying mention in law.

A cyberbullying bill failed last year in the Senate amid concerns it was so broadly written as to impinge speech rights. A Republican raised similar questions Wednesday, asking how police would determine “indirect threats” mentioned in the bill

“It still has such a fuzzy definition to it,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. Lundberg ultimately voted for the measure.

The bill faces one more committee before a vote by the full Senate.

This year’s bill addresses “a perceived loophole in current legislation” without trying to tackle “common adolescent behaviors,” said Lakewood Police Chief Kevin Paletta, testifying on behalf of the Colorado Chiefs of Police.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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Online:

House Bill 1072: https://bit.ly/1NdFyEw

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