The Use of Tattoos in the Criminal Justice System

A tattoo can have a lot of significance to the person who decides to put one on his or her body. Tattoos, especially in the criminal justice system, can also be good identifiers for police officers who are given descriptions of a suspect. In Florida, for example, the police have set up a specific tattoo and markings database to help in identifying potential suspects of crimes, or when determining if certain tattoos may affiliate the person with a gang, creed, or organization.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a criminal offense and were identified by a tattoo, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Study Reveals What an Inmate’s Tattoos Say About the Crimes He/She is More Likely to Commit

According to a new study, some tattoos may indicate the type of crimes that a person may commit through a statistical analysis of Florida’s tattoo database . The study suggests that certain tattoos may indicate that a person is more likely to commit a specific type of crime, or on the reverse, may be less likely to commit a specific type of crime. The study found, first and foremost, that the younger generation of inmates were more likely to have a tattoo; approximately 85% of inmates who are under 35 years of age as opposed to 43% for prisoners who are 55 years of age or older. The study went on to suggest that inmates who commit property crimes and weapons-possession offenses were the population that had the most tattoos, while the offenders who were convicted of sex crimes, specifically pedophilia, were less likely to have any tattoos at all. Inmates with tattoos that were related to white supremacy, three dots, or a tear drop were more likely to have been convicted of murder, assault, and robbery, while inmates with facial tattoos and tattoos of guns, Christian, and satanic images were more likely to be convicted of theft and drugs.

The Use of Tattoos as Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

The use of tattoos as evidence is still in the early stages, but is on the rise in certain court rooms. It is not new that criminal defendants have been identified as suspects in a case because of unique and identifying tattoos that a witness may have seen at the scene of a crime. What is becoming more and more prevalent in courtrooms is the use of tattoos as evidence to determine that a person is either related to a gang or criminal organization, or the use of a tattoo as evidence of a specific crime itself.

Limitations of Using Tattoos as Evidence: Bias and Prejudice

There is a limit on the ability of a prosecutor to introduce a tattoo as evidence of a crime. A tattoo may be considered probative evidence that the criminal defendant is related to a gang or criminal organization if the majority of the members got the tattoo to show their allegiance to the gang or organization. However, to use a tattoo to suggest that a person is violent because the image that is tattooed on his or her body is violent would be considered prejudicial and biased.

Because of the possibility of prejudice or bias that a tattoo may invoke in a jury, a defense attorney may petition the court to have the criminal defendant’s tattoos covered up by a makeup artist during the jury sections of trial. This would be so that any tattoos not directly related to the offense during the criminal proceeding would not prejudice the jury against the criminal defendant. However, using a tattoo as evidence in a court case is up to the discretion of the court on whether the probative value of the tattoo as evidence outweighs the possible bias or prejudice that introducing the tattoo as evidence might cause.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.