Parents Arrested for Giving Their Kids Home Tattoos

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

How not to win a parenting award? Tattoo your child. Credit: Getty Images

Patty Jo Marsh and Jacob Bartels have tattoos. They decided that six of their children should have them as well. But tattooing children is illegal in Georgia, as is giving tattoos without a license, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The couple was arrested on December 28th and charged with tattooing and reckless conduct, both misdemeanors, and cruelty to children, which is a felony, according to the arrest report. They were released on December 29th on a $10,000 property bond.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the homemade tattoo machine Marsh and Bartels used is made from "electrical cord, spliced wiring and a guitar string for a needle." The Free Press reports that Marsh and Bartels used the machine on themselves the same day, all with the same needle/guitar string.

The couple has seven children in their care, ages 17, 15, 12, 11, 11, 10 and 7. The 7-year-old did not receive a tattoo because Marsh and Bartels decided he was "too young," Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett told the Free Press in an interview. Everett also said that he thought this case was "unusual," and that he has "never seen parents tattooing their kids like that."

The six children received their tats after Thanksgiving; Marsh said that the children wanted to get them so they could be like their parents, according to the Journal Constitution. Marsh is not the biological mother of all seven children ( describes the household as a "blended family"); Sheriff Everett told the Free Press that one of the 11-year-olds was visiting his biological mother after Christmas when the mother noticed the tattoo, described as "a small X," on her daughter's hand. The child claimed the tattoo was temporary, according to the Sheriff, and when the mother couldn't wash it off, she called Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services, who notified police.

The children were temporarily removed from Marsh and Bartel's custody and were quickly returned. Marsh is quoted in published reports as saying, "If I'm such a bad parent, then how come they brought the kids back right after I got out jail?" Marsh said that she didn't know that tattooing without a license is illegal in Georgia, nor was she aware that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to get a tattoo.

Except that not knowing the law is not a defense, or as lawyers put it, "Ignorantia juris non excusat." The bottom line in this case is that laws were broken in Georgia, and there may be legal consequences. Bad parenting, however, is not illegal anywhere.

Would you let one of your children under 18 get a tattoo?

Related: How Risky Are Tattoos?, Parent Vs. Parent: Tattoos, Temporary and Otherwise

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.