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Right to Makeup Artist to Cover Up Facial Tattoos?

When you are a criminal defendant at your own criminal proceedings, there are many things that you must decide that will affect the ultimate outcome of your case. Though you have an attorney advising you, it will be up to you to decide if you want to take a plea deal, go to trial, to be your own witness, which witnesses and evidence that might help or hurt the proceedings, among other things. Sometimes, however, with new studies showing the extent in which facial and appearance bias may play for juries, your appearance could be the make or break piece of your criminal proceeding.

Voir Dire of Jury Members Only Goes So Far

Though the criminal justice system uses a system known as voir dire whereby the prosecutor and your attorney will meet and evaluate hundreds of people who have been called for jury duty, only a select few will be chosen after their personal histories, conflicts of interest, and their biases have been vetted. Unfortunately, that is only half the battle as some criminal defendants will require more than just a comb through their hair and access to a nice suit or clothes for the proceedings.

Florida’s Stance on Facial Tattoo Cover-Ups

In Florida, recently, a judge denied the request of a criminal defendant for access and for the state to pay for a makeup artist who would cover his facial tattoos. The criminal defendant has been charged in a double-murder case, and is standing trial with a jury of his peers. The criminal defendant’s attorney requested that his client have access to a makeup artist who charges more than $100 a day for her services – expenses that will be thrown on the taxpayers. The judge denied the request stating that it is not up to the state to pay for the defendant’s tattoo coverage.

Judge-by-Judge Determination in Florida

This seems to be a judge-to-judge decision as in Florida, several criminal defendants have been permitted access to makeup or makeup artists as a result of their facial tattoos. In September 2014, a judge permitted a criminal defendant with a swastika, barbed wire and expletives on his face to have access to a makeup artist because there was significant fear that even if a voir dire would help to limit the biases of the jury, these types of tattoos would make it difficult for the defendant to still have an impartial jury of his peers.

Considerations for Whether A Defendant Can Hire a Makeup Artist

What are a couple of the considerations that the judge should evaluate before permitting a criminal defendant to wear makeup to cover up tattoos or hire a makeup artist?

Right to impartial proceedings with an unbiased jury. If there is one thing that our society holds most sacred it is the right for criminal defendants to have access to a fair trial. At the heart of the criminal justice system, there is hope that verdicts are based on factual evidence and testimony; however, jurors are human and can be influenced by the facial tattoos.

Whether the state should pay or the defendant. Though makeup could help transform the defendant to look less scary or violent to a jury, the question should be if it is up to the state to pay. Most likely, taxpayers would push back against tax money being used to fund the defendant’s makeup. Though this is a fair point, if the defendant is covered with facial tattoos and he/she has no money to support the makeup artist, then there seems to be no point to having a pretextual trial.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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