Tattoos Used as Evidence Against Criminal Suspects
Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 19, 2012 – Tattoos have seen a rapid rise in popularity in recent years.
Some ink enthusiasts choose designs and placements that are commonplace, while others may choose one-of-a-kind tattoos in unusual locations on the body. The more distinctive the tattoo, the more it serves to identify an individual — a fact that has not escaped law enforcement officers.
“Criminal suspects need to be aware that any distinguishing physical characteristics, including tattoos, may be used to build a case against them,” said Polk County criminal defense attorney Thomas Grajek. “Unfortunately, cases of false identification are all too commonplace.”
According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, a tattoo helped convict Chris Combs, 43, of a recent bank robbery in St. Petersburg, Fla. When police questioned potential witnesses nearby, a Mariner Car Wash employee told them he’d seen a man fleeing the area at the time of the robbery and had noticed the man’s prominent tattoo: the words “Most Wanted” printed in block letters on his right forearm. The description matched that of Combs’ tattoo, who is now serving a 30-year sentence.
Assistant State Attorney Evan Brodsky, who prosecuted Combs, said that the tattoo was an essential piece of evidence.
In another St. Petersburg case, two victims of sexual battery told police their assailant had the words “Ride or Die” tattooed on his neck. This helped lead to the arrest of John C. Andrews, who has a tattoo matching that description and is now awaiting trial.
Increasingly, police agencies are photographing and cataloging suspects’ tattoos in computer databases, making it easy to use them to corroborate other evidence and build a case. If a victim of a crime recalls the perpetrator had a skull and crossbones inked on his neck, for example, investigators would search their databases for anyone with a matching tattoo.
Thomas C. Grajek
206 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Lakeland, FL 33803
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