no face, no case

[noh feys noh keys]

What does no face, no case mean?

No face, no case is a rhyming phrase that summarizes a popular—not not necessarily true—theory that a prosecutor will drop a case (no case) against a suspect if there is no face. No face refers to either an absent witness or when the suspect's actual face was not clearly captured in the act.

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The phase no face, no case has been extended, often playfully, as a caption to or comment on social media posts where the face of one more of the persons in the photo has been concealed.

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Examples of no face, no case

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Examples of no face, no case
'Bout everywhere I go, I gotta bring the ski / No face, no case, live everyday like Halloween
Kodak Black, "Halloween" (Song), October 2017
"No face, no case," gloats killer as he walks free from court after jury fails to reach verdict
Neil Docking & Connor Dunn, Daily Mirror (headline), November 2017
Kinfolk / DatPiff

Where does no face, no case come from?

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In many countries including the US, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The idea of no face, no case relies on the fact that, even when a suspect matches the exact description of the perpetrator, if no person saw or camera captured the wrongdoer’s face (no face), then there is usually reasonable doubt, and the case will be dismissed (no case). Along the same lines, if the only witness (the face) to the crime fails or refuses to testify, the thinking goes, then the case will be dropped due to lack of definitive evidence. Another situation of no face, no case.

No face, no case is not necessarily true.

While the legal ideas behind the phrase are much older, the phrase no face, no case appears to have emerged by at least the early 2000s. The phrase is the title of a 2002 song by lesser-known rapper from South Carolina, Pachino Dino. In this song about violent crimes, Pachino Dino raps he was not worried about being arrested because of no case, no face—thanks to a “ski mask coverin’ my cranium.”

In 2004, the phrase no case, no face was officially recorded by Tennessee police during a suspect interview. The phrase, as it happens, contributed to evidence against the defendant, as police had not revealed to the suspect that the criminal was wearing a mask at the time of the crime.

No case, no face was recorded by the mid-2000s in regard to witness testimony. The phrase was (and is) used by some attorneys and legal experts to refer to a witness who failed or refused to testify. This situation is especially common in domestic violence cases where the witness is also the victim, and thus cannot legally be forced to face the suspect in court—though that doesn’t necessarily mean the case will be dismissed.

While no face, no case was known in the context of law, law enforcement, and criminal justice by the 2000s, it appears that the general public became aware of no case, no face thanks to music, television, or other media that featured the phrase. The hip-hop artist Gashi, for instance, released a song in November 2018 called and featuring lyrics about “No Face No Case.”

Who uses no face, no case?

No face, no case is a clever rhyme, but it is not hard and fast legal advice. Please note carefully: it isn’t automatically true a case will be dropped just because there isn’t evidence of a person’s face committing a crime or an eyewitness doesn’t testify.

By 2019, no face no case was used in the title or lyrics of dozens of songs, especially in hip-hop.

Duxce Hefner / Amazon

The phrase remains used in the context of criminal justice, especially as used by a suspect in claiming innocence.

When used in reference to crimes, many non-legal experts use no face no case in reference to masked criminals.

No face, no case has also become a popular phrase on social media site like Instagram. It is used to describe a photo where the poster has intentionally hidden either their own or someone else’s face, e.g., if they don’t want to be caught with a person.

No face, no case may also be used as a comment for social media photos where a person’s face or head is intentionally covered, as with a makeup, or cut off in some way, as to showcase an outfit.

 

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