What Happens if You Get Tattoos While on Felony Probation?

By Mary Jane Freeman
Offenders on felony probation may be prohibited from getting new tattoos.

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When a person is convicted of a felony and is released on probation, the court imposes several conditions on the offender. These conditions are within the discretion of the court, and can vary between offenders and jurisdictions. If an offender has gang ties, one of these conditions is likely to be a ban on any new tattoos while on probation. Violating this condition may result in a revocation of probation and requiring that the offender serve out his sentence in prison.

Felony Defined

Generally, a felony is a crime of a serious nature, such as murder, rape or child molestation and the punishment is one year or more in prison. However, a felony can sometimes result in a sentence of less than one year, if state law permits it, and if it is within a judge's discretion to grant the lesser term.

Felony Probation and Conditions

Felony probation occurs when a person is convicted of a felony but is not imprisoned. Instead, the court releases the offender back into the community for the duration of his sentence and he remains under the supervision of a probation officer or the court. This is sometimes referred to as community supervision. While on felony probation, an offender must abide by all of the conditions the court has set. Common conditions include paying for the cost of supervision and restitution to victims, checking in with the probation officer at regular intervals, submitting to drug tests, living at a specific residence, maintaining employment and performing community service. Offenders are also prohibited from engaging in certain behavior while on probation, such as possessing firearms and violating the law.

Tattoo Restrictions

In addition to the common conditions imposed on felony probationers, offenders who are known gang members or have ties to criminal street gangs often have additional restrictions placed upon them. A common restriction is the prohibition against obtaining new gang-related tattoos while on felony probation. For example, California specifically prohibits felony probationers from getting a tattoo that they know -- or reasonably should know -- is gang-related. Other states, like Nebraska and Missouri, have similar restrictions on gang members. Although these tattoo restrictions are primarily geared toward felons with gang affiliations, courts usually have the discretion to impose these conditions on other felony probationers, as well.

Violation of Tattoo Restriction

When a felony probationer violates a condition of his probation, like obtaining a gang-related tattoo, he may receive a warning from his probation officer if the officer has such discretion. However, it is more likely that he will be required to appear in court for a probation violation hearing. At that time, the judge will evaluate the nature and circumstances of the violation and issue a decision. The judge may permit the offender to continue with probation as is, impose additional conditions or extend the duration of probation; or the judge may order the offender to be imprisoned for some or all of his sentence.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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