Sunday, April 5, 2015

Can I Tattoo My Baby?


I've been asked thousands of questions about family law issues and, for the most part, they all blend together in a haze. I can name most of the topics I've addressed, but I can't tell you the exact wording of many of the questions I've responded to.

But when someone asks, "Can I tattoo my baby," that sticks with you. So here's the answer, at least for baby's in Texas: PROBABLY NO.

1. Can vs May

As we do with all legal questions, let's break this one down into separate questions for clarity. First is the issue of practical capacity. For all I know, the asker had the ability to insert pigment under the baby's skin to produce a tattoo. Or maybe not. Because I have no idea what a person is capable of, I treat all "can" questions as "may" questions. In other words, I'm not commenting on whether the person had the wherewithal to do what he or she asked. I'm commenting on the asker's legal right to do so.

2. Who Can Tattoo Anyone?

Second, can a person tattoo anyone, baby or otherwise? The Texas Health and Safety Code tells us that one can only tattoo another at either a licensed tattoo studio (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.002(a)) or a licensed temporary location. (§ 146.002(b))

Also, the person who would apply the tattoo, the "tattooist," must be registered with the department. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.0021). So unless the tattooist is registered with the department and operating at a duly licensed location, the quick answer is "no."

The only exceptions to these requirements are a medical facility licensed under other law and a person licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.0025). Presumably people and places exempted under this section are applying discrete tattoos to aid in medical treatment, such as those used by radiology oncologists to properly align the radiation machines with a cancer patient's treatment area.

3. Is it Legal for a Tattooist to Tattoo a Baby?

Third, can a registered tattooist operating at a duly licensed location tattoo a baby? Let's assume that by "baby" we're talking about a person who is under the age of 18 years. If the purpose of the tattoo is to cover an existing tattoo that is obscene, drug-related, gang-related, or otherwise offensive to the baby's parent or guardian, then a registered tattooist operating at a duly licensed location may use tattooing techniques to cover the offensive tattoo if the tattooist has the consent of the baby's parent or guardian. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.012(a-1)).

Otherwise, no, a tattooist is not permitted to tattoo a baby. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.012).

4. The Penalty for Tattooing a Baby

Violating the rules governing tattoos is a class A misdemeanor (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 146.018), which is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, one year in jail, or both (Tex. Penal Code § 12.21).

I don't judge folks who want to share their love for ink with their children. Well, maybe a little. But only as it pertains to actual babies. No matter where you are on the issue of children and tattoos, just know that in Texas, it's illegal.

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