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Can You Get in Trouble for Tattooing Without License

Yes. It is very possible to get in trouble in the United States for tattooing without the appropriate license. One thing you have to understand is that although the body art and tattoo industry might not be regulated by the federal government, it doesn’t in any way entail that there aren’t regulations meant for tattoos.

Tattooing is considered a form of body modification, and owing to that, it is regulated by the state. It simply entails that there are stipulated rules and regulations that will have to be adhered to in order to guarantee the safety of those who undergo the procedure. 

However, not all states require anyone in the art of drawing tattoos to obtain a license. In most places, these professionals will have to meet training or apprenticeship requirements.

Tattooing Licensure or Registration Requirements

There is so much to consider when looking to become a tattoo artist. For one, you would want to note that a good number of states mandate that individual tattoo artists be licensed, coupled with tattoo business establishments.

Aside from that, in some states, tattoo artists are only allowed to work out of fixed licensed locations, not pop-up shops or mobile shops.

Below are regulations and legal insights you will want to be wary of in the United States when looking to offer tattoo services.

  1. Tattooing Apprenticeships

In a good number of places, before you can offer tattoo services, you are expected to gain intensive knowledge by working as an apprentice under an experienced professional.

Note that in these locations that require or allow for tattoo artist apprenticeships, the apprentice can practice only under the guidance or supervision of a properly licensed artist.

In most places, apprentice tattoo artist is not legally permitted to give tattoos unless they are being supervised by a licensed tattooist.

  1. Home Tattoos

In some states as well, the term tattooing might not require that any kind of compensation be exchanged between the person giving the tattoo and the person receiving it.

It simply entails, for instance, that if a friend inks a tattoo for you at home for free and isn’t licensed, your friend has gone against the law regardless of whether they asked for or received any payment from you.

  1. Tattooing of Minors

In the United States, it is considered a crime to ink a minor (below 18). Most often, these laws are blanket prohibitions against anyone giving a tattoo to a minor; however, at other times it gives room for minors to get tattoos as long as they have the permission of a parent or guardian.

A good number of states are very strict when it comes to laws concerning minors getting tattoos. Some will want a parent or guardian to be available or present with their child, and the parent will have to make available photo identification.

If a parent isn’t available, some states will mandate a notarized written permission statement from them. Any artist who goes ahead to tattoo a minor in violation of these laws faces criminal penalties.

  1. Penalties for Illegal Tattooing

Although this will vary depending on your state laws or local regulations; however, tattooing a minor or tattooing without the right authorizations, registration, or supervision could mean criminal charges, coupled with other professional repercussions.

In most places, these crimes result in misdemeanor penalties, punishable by fines and possible jail time. Fines could more or less fall within a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Most state misdemeanors also come with a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail.


In the United States, it is possible to get in trouble for tattooing without the appropriate license. Although a good number of states are known to only put in place minor penalties for anyone who tattoos without a license, the penalties in some other states can be quite stiff.

Aside from just having to face jail terms and significant fines, also note that if you are a professional tattoo artist or someone looking to be one, your ability to practice your profession could be negatively impeded if not permanently derailed.