The Scarlet Letter & Other Tales Of Woe

May 26, 2010
/ Author: Rick

A couple of days ago over at Probable Cause: The Legal Blog with the Really Low Standard of Review, I alluded to the fact that ideas for blogging come to me faster than I am able to keep up. Although I don’t get nearly enough time to write, I’m constantly sending myself email messages from my phone saying, “blog about this!” or “blog about that!”  Then when the time comes, I feel almost overwhelmed with all I want to say and have difficulty deciding how to focus.

Today is such a day.

The Fresno Bee this morning starts us off with the unsensational headline,

Tattoo ‘hurts…it hurts a lot,’ boy says (Pablo Lopez, “Tattoo ‘hurts…it hurts a lot,’ boy says” (May 26, 2010) The Fresno Bee, A1.)

The story is of a boy who allegedly was forcibly held down and tattooed with a gang tattoo by his father, who is said to be a Bulldog gang member.  Most people to whom I’ve spoken agree — and the story indicates the defense attorneys are also arguing this — that the charge, which is aggravated mayhem, was intended to be used for defendants accused of permanently disfiguring someone, such as by cutting off an arm, ear, or by setting them on fire.

If convicted, the father and his “accomplice” in this crime are looking at life in prison.

That’s right.  Life.  For tattooing his son.

Under California law, tattooing a minor is a crime punishable as a misdemeanor, with a maximum of six months in jail, or a fine, or both.  (CA Pen. Code §653; CA Pen. Code §19.)

But that’s not good enough.  These guys are gang members.  GANG MEMBERS, I TELL YOU!

Sorry.  I was getting into the spirit of things.  When gang members are involved, after all, no punishment is serious enough.  Especially if, on top of being gang members, they happen to commit a crime.  Even a misdemeanor.

If it weren’t for the huge amount of human suffering involved, I’d be delighted to see the District Attorney’s office — and some segments of the public — screaming for yet another relatively trivial crime resulting in life in prison.  I’ve already written elsewhere about the impact this has on our budgets.

The Fresno Bee provides some insight into that problem, too, on page 3:

Pot clinic owner in jail tug-of-war (Paula Lloyd, “Pot clinic owner in jail tug-of-war” (May 26, 2010) A3.

Robert Morse, the owner of a Tower District medical-marijuana clinic, has been sent back to jail yet again by Judge Franson, who appears to be primarily angered over the lack of respect shown his court by Morse.  Morse has repeatedly ignored the judge’s orders.  Now it’s the Sheriff’s turn.

Sheriff Mims, claiming to be acting under a federal mandate, keeps releasing Morse due to jail overcrowding.  The judge keeps sending him back and telling the Sheriff to keep him there until a 15-day sentence handed down by the judge has been served.

Morse can’t be kept because we’re busy locking up “violent” gang members for misdemeanors.  Our prison system is also in a near-meltdown state because of the increasing numbers of people being sent there for what are really societally-disapproved behaviors which, frankly, should not be crimes.

There’s no word yet on whether Judge Franson will add Sheriff Mims to the list of prisoners he wants held for dissing him.

Tattoos are great for at least semi-permanently marking individuals for easy classification.  California hasn’t quite reached the point yet of demanding tattoos for criminals — frankly, they don’t have to, since criminals have been more than happy to tattoo themselves — but for that class of criminals attempting to keep a low profile, the State will have none of it.

The same Fresno Bee that brought me the above stories tells me about a California Assembly bill which will require certain sex offenders to wear Hawthorne’s Scarlet “A” — well, okay, maybe it’s not an “A”; it’s some “distinctive stripe or color,” possibly not even scarlet — on their driver’s licenses.  The stated goal is to make it easier for law enforcement to be “on alert when they stop and question people.”

It will also allow, of course, for anyone else — bartenders, waitresses, sales people checking ID against a credit card, etc. — to know that a sex offender is in their midst.  This will make them safer — the viewer, that is; not the sex offender, who can probably be expected to be subjected to further harassment.  But, hey, it’s a sex offender, right?  It’s not like we’re talking about a person we’d like to entice into acting like the human we don’t think he is!

The bill is backed by that most un-impassioned of California critters, the ones who increasingly structure how our criminal “justice” system works: the father of a 14-year-old girl who was raped and murdered.  Oh, and, that more despicable class of compassionate California critter, who only wants what’s best for California: our politicians.  It’s bipartisan, though (who doesn’t hate sex offenders?): sponsor Pedro Nava is a Democrat, while sponsor Paul Cook is Republican.

The bill is a missed opportunity, though, for solving all the problems discussed in this blog post in one feel swoop.  I’m almost afraid to say this:  So far, nobody has looked at the possibility of balancing the budget by releasing gang members from jails and prisons and providing them with small business loans to allow them to open tattoo parlors under the condition that they provide free forehead tattoos to California’s burgeoning sex offender population.

The sad thing is, the way things are going, some brain-dead “damn the rule of law, gotta support those victims!” politician is bound to latch onto something similar soon.

Did you enjoy this post? Leave a comment below! And if you haven’t already subscribed, click the button and get my free ePamphlet on “How to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer.”


  1. Of course the tattoo will be a collateral consequence of the sentence and will not be subject to attack as a violation of the 8th amendment.

  2. Of course the tattoo will be a collateral consequence of the sentence and will not be subject to attack as a violation of the 8th amendment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *