Home / News in Brief / Tattoo parlor protected by First Amendment

Tattoo parlor protected by First Amendment

Citizens of the commonwealth’s capitol city may recall how they swelled with pride to learn last year that Richmond residents are among the most-tattooed folks in the country.

A survey reported by MSNBC said Richmond, at number three the “most surprising” entry in a top-10 tattoos list of cities, averages about 14.5 tattoo shops per 100,000 people.

In the latest update in our continuing coverage of tattoo-related litigation, we report that the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that tattoo artists enjoy First Amendment protection in plying their trade. The ruling comes in a zoning dispute between the city of Mesa and a couple who wanted to open a tattoo parlor.

When the city denied a permit, tattoo artists Ryan and Laetitia Coleman sued under § 1983, alleging a violation of their First Amendment rights. A state trial court dismissed the case, saying the permit denial was “reasonable and rational” land use regulation.

The Arizona Supreme Court said a “tattoo involves expressive elements beyond those present in ‘a pen-and-ink’ drawing, inasmuch as a tattoo reflects not only the work of the tattoo artist but also the self-expression of the person displaying the tattoo’s relatively permanent image.”

Tattooing may be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner regulations, but the Colemans had stated a First Amendment claim based on denial of their application, the high court said in Coleman v. City of Mesa.

Leave a Reply