California Penal Code Section 653 PC: Tattooing A Minor

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime


Tattoos and other forms of permanent body art are increasingly popular with teenagers and young adults. While tattoos may be widespread and openly accepted, it is still a crime to perform a tattoo on a person under the age of 18. This action is prohibited under California Penal Code Section 653 PC.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of tattooing a minor, a prosecutor must be able to establish that the defendant tattooed or offered to tattoo a person under the age of 18 years. A defendant has tattooed someone when:

  1. The defendant inserted pigment under the surface of the skin of a human being
  2. By pricking the skin with a needle or similar tool
  3. And producing an indelible mark or figure that is visible through the skin.

One interesting aspect about the crime of tattooing a minor is that the statute does not require the defendant have a specific state of mind when committing this offense. Thus, a defendant could theoretically be charged under California Penal Code Section 653 PC even where he or she does not knowingly or intentionally tattoo someone under 18. As a result, tattoo artists must be especially careful when checking identification and date of birth for any client requesting a tattoo.

This statute would not apply to an act by a licensed practitioner in the healing arts who acts in the course of his or her practice.

2. Related Offenses

Related offenses include the following:

  1. Contributing to the Delinquency of a MinorCalifornia Penal Code Section 272 PC
  2. Annoying or Molesting a ChildCalifornia Penal Code Section 647.6 PC
  3. Selling or Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor – California Business & Professions Code Section 25658 B&P

3. Examples

A man runs a tattoo parlor and is widely respected for his artistry. One day a young woman comes in to his shop and looks around. The young woman tells the man that she wants a tattoo but is scared what her parents would say if she got one. The man offers to give her a tattoo at a discount and does not ask her how old she is. The girl refuses and leaves the store. The man could be charged under California Penal Code Section 653 PC because the offense applies equally to those who tattoo as well as those who merely offer to tattoo someone under 18 years old.

In another example, a licensed dermatologist runs a controversial practice in which he helps patients affected by skin discolorations and other skin irregularities. As part of his practice, the doctor sometimes injects dyes under his patient’s skin to treat their conditions. One of his patients is a seventeen year old boy who comes in for treatment with his parent’s consent. The doctor would not be charged with violating California Penal Code Section 653 PC as long as it is determined that he was performing “healing arts” in the course of his practice.

4. Defenses to Tattooing a Minor

As described above, a licensed practitioner of the healing arts acting in the course of his practice is exempt from prosecution under California Penal Code Section 653 PC.

Law enforcement agencies may conduct sting operations in order to catch tattoo artists offering tattoos to minors. If the undercover in the sting operation becomes overly aggressive or otherwise pressures the defendant into committing this crime, the defendant would have a valid entrapment defense if charged criminally.

5. Penalties

Tattooing a minor is a misdemeanor level offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine and any other conditions of probation that a judge may deem appropriate. In addition, any tattooist or tattoo parlor may have their license revoked as a result of this offense.

6. Criminal Defense for Tattooing a Minor

If you or your business has been charged with tattooing or offering to tattoo a minor it is imperative that you discuss your case with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who possesses the skills and legal acumen required to fight what can often be devastating charges. Mr. Kraut is well respected in the community as a tough litigator who fights hard to protect his clients.

For more information about tattooing a minor, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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