NC Mom Tattoos Daughter, 11, Gets Arrested

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on October 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An 11-year-old girl wears her heart not on her sleeve, but on her right shoulder, thanks to her tattoo-artist mom. But now the mom is facing criminal charges.

Odessa Clay, 30, of Pamlico County, N.C., admits she tattooed her daughter last year with the outline of a tiny heart, Yahoo! Shine reports. But Clay wasn't arrested until this past September.

Why the delay? Clay suspects one of her ex in-laws called the cops in an act of retaliation, she told eastern North Carolina's WCTI-TV.

Clay apparently filed a police report against one of her former in-laws -- the grandfather of her tattooed daughter, according to WCTI. News reports did not explain what that police report was about.

Soon after, Odessa Clay was arrested for tattooing a person under 18. Even with parental permission, that's a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, depending on how many prior convictions a defendant has.

In fact, North Carolina and 13 other states explicitly prohibit tattoo artists from inking juveniles under 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most other states also prohibit minors from getting tattoos, unless their parents sign off.

In the case of Odessa Clay, who moonlights as a tattoo artist, she says her daughter asked for the body art. Clay insists the girl did not feel any pain, adding, "I didn't fill it in."

Unfortunately for Clay, North Carolina's underage tattoo ban does not recognize any defenses. Even though Clay maintains she didn't know it was illegal to tattoo a minor, in general a mistaken belief about a law is also not a defense.

Clay's situation is similar to that of a Georgia mom who was arrested in January for letting her 10-year-old son get a tattoo. But in the Georgia case, the mom was arrested on suspicion of child cruelty.

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