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Tattooing A Minor: Penal Code § 653 PC

Tattoos long emerged out of the counterculture to gain mainstream appeal. Scores of famous people sport body art. Adults and younger persons both choose to “ink” themselves. Adults, however, can be charged with a crime if they facilitate the tattooing of a minor. In the state of California, “Tattooing A Minor” is explicitly noted as illegal under established criminal statutes. Specifically, the wording in Penal Code § 653 PC covers all the information related to this crime in the Golden State.

The statute associated with tattooing a minor falls under a lengthy section referred to as crimes defined as “of other and miscellaneous offenses.” Do not let the words “other” and “miscellaneous” lead you to think related charges aren’t serious. A crime is a crime regardless of how the penal code organizes one.

The Act and the Offer to Act

Anyone who opts to tattoo a minor can be charged with a crime under the aforementioned statute. No delineation is given between a professional tattoo artist and someone who becomes a “makeshift” tattoo artist. Simply because a person lacks the credentials and experience of a professional tattoo artist doesn’t mean the individual gains an automatic defense to the charges.

Also worth noting is the statute’s explicit statement that a person can be charged and found guilty of making an offer to tattoo a minor. So, the minor does not need to actually be tattooed. A person who makes the offer can be charged in the same manner as someone who actually goes forward and commits the act.

Per the law, a minor is someone who is under the age of 18. No excuses exist for knowing someone is a minor and tattooing or offering to tattoo. In other words, even if the minor requests the tattoo, the act of performing the tattoo work reflects a criminal action.

The crime is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The maximum penalty would up six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Again, the conviction would be for a criminal offense meaning the defendant then acquires a permanent criminal record.

Interestingly, the statute notes the section does not apply to “licensed practitioner of the healing arts” performing in the official capacity of a practice. It may be best to refer any questions regarding this exception to a practicing attorney.

Defining Tattoo by Law

To avoid ambiguity, the penal code defines what a “tattoo” refers to. Tattooing someone involves the use of a needle “or otherwise” in the process. Specifically, the needle or otherwise would be used to insert a pigment under the skin. The skin then bears an “indelible mark or figure.” The mark/figure/tattoo then becomes clearly visible through the skin.

Based on the definition explained in the penal code, non-permanent “fake” tattoos are not mentioned. Such tattoos would be ones placed on the skin by adding water to a sticker. The resultant marking then affixes to the top surface of the skin and eventually wears off in a short period of time.

Defending to the Charges

A capable defense attorney could help someone faces these charges. A proper defense takes into account all the facts associated with the charges. Obviously, the charges should be dismissed if the person tattooed was not a minor when the act or offer took place. If the minor provided false ID and otherwise deceived a tattoo artist who had no legitimate idea the minor was — in fact — a minor, this could complicate things for the prosecuting attorney.

Regardless of the circumstances of the charges, seek out and speak with an attorney who handles these types of cases. Doing so could lead to fair proceedings and a speedy adjudication.

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