Bristol Tattoo Ordinance Challenge Settled

Posted: Apr, 29, 2003

The R.I. ACLU announced today the formal settlement of its lawsuit challenging a Town of Bristol ordinance which banned persons between the ages of 18 and 21 from getting tattoos. Last November, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance as a violation of the First Amendment and the privacy rights of young adults. The suit was brought on behalf of Alfred Figueiredo, owner of the Forbidden Art Studio, a Bristol tattoo parlor, and a potential customer, Nicholas Arruda.

Under the settlement agreement, the Town recently revised the ordinance to ban tattooing only for those younger than 18 years of age. In addition, the Town agreed to pay ACLU volunteer attorney Carolyn Mannis $5,000 in attorneys’ fees, and to pay damages in the amounts of $500 and $100 to Figueiredo and Arruda respectively. The suit has now been dismissed.

The ACLU lawsuit called tattoos “a unique form of personal art” that are “no less a form of expression than parades, marching, displaying swastikas, wearing an armband, saluting or refusing to salute a flag, singing or other artistic endeavors,” all of which are protected by the First Amendment. In 2001, a Massachusetts court struck down that state’s total ban on tattooing.

ACLU attorney Mannis said today: “This case marks a resounding victory for First Amendment rights. Now, young adults in Bristol can join those in the rest of the state in being able to adorn their bodies as they see fit without unnecessary government interference.”