Tattoos and Rap

Several members of the Latin Kings gang were arrested in Florida for racketeering and other charges. 23 of its members were incriminated in the process of indictment, as associates of one of the biggest and most well organized gangs in the country. The trial sparked controversy and great surprise when the most powerful evidence presented for the case included gang-related tattoos, symbols, and handshakes. People asked, was this a violation of the First Amendment – the right to free speech?

Criminal Procedures Guided by Federal Rules

Courts are bound by Federal rules of criminal procedure when evaluating and determining when and how they can use evidence in a case. Some submitted evidences may bear insignificant probative value but the defendant may find it highly detrimental to his defense. One example is: a defendant that was arrested for beating up a neighbor does not immediately tattoos in court | Broward criminal lawyer Kenneth Padowitzprove that he also stole a different neighbor’s car. While these two events were unrelated and does not necessarily have bearing for the defendant, the mere presence of sharing the first crime’s incidence with the jury will put the defendant at risk of being found guilty for the second crime despite the possibility that he is innocent. Previous records of improper and unlawful behavior are not deemed valuable to prove in such as case that the defendant committed the accusations.

Tattoos as Incriminating Evidence

According to the federal rules, there is an admissibility standard that allows certain acts and behavior to be utilized as a means to prove motive, intent, or bias to commit a crime. A simple example is if a gang member was implicated in the murder of a rival gang member. The court may allow the evidentiary use of a marking (tattoo) that will prove his membership to the gang, and by extension, his animosity towards the rival gang. While bearing the ink itself does not necessarily prove that he is guilty, it may aide the jury in considering if there is enough motive for him to commit such a crime. This discrepancy is very minimal but significant.

Tattoos of the Latin Kings Used as Evidence

Among the most difficult to use for evidence are rap lyrics and tattoos. These are not easy to imply the defendant’s guilt of committing a crime. Subjective views are the most common First Amendment issue that makes it difficult to use for evidentiary manipulation. In the case of The Latin Kings, their tattoos are represented by a lion, a sacred crown, or initials including “ALKQN” “ALK” or “LK”. The problem presented here is that a regular person may bear similar initials inked on their skin that means a different thing – such as a name of a significant other or their child. While other gang members may also tattoo their rap with tear drops along the murder sheets on their skin, the court may find it significant, but not conclusive.

Rap Lyrics Used as Evidence

While Bob Marley sang (and made popular) the song “I Shot the Sheriff”, he was never arrested. This is because of the subjective interpretations that rap lyrics can bring. Criminal cases that use rap lyrics for evidence must be able to prove a rock-solid connection between the description in the lyrics and the crime itself. Lyrics in a rap song that are rather very detailed and clear are more likely to be accepted in court than those with lyrics only mentioning a plot of sorts where a person was killed in a vague scenario without specifics.

A Qualified Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer

Broward criminal lawyer, Kenneth Padowitz, can provide you or your family expert legal services in case of an arrest. If you want a no-obligation private evaluation of your case, Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. is here to take charge. Benefit from his extended experience defending South Florida clients.