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Social Workers and Law Enforcement Officers Must Seek a Court Order to Enter Your Home if You Don't Waive Your Fourth Amendment Rights
 
Notice to government agents attempting to gain entry without a court order. (Print this out.)
 
Court Order Required to Enter Home
 
by Cheryl Barnes
 
DSS workers and law enforcement officers routinely threaten parents with arrest or misdemeanor charges for refusing access to their home or children during a child abuse investigation. They claim North Carolina law requires them to enter your home and that you are impeding an investigation if you question them in any way.

They're so bold they don't even stop at threatening to have you arrested, they'll threaten to arrest your friends, neighbors or anyone else that dares question their authority.

It's common knowledge throughout the United States that a court order of some kind is required before government agents can enter a private home... It's in the Constitution. However, North Carolina seems to think they're excluded from the rest of the nation. Why do they think this? Because of a borderline unconstitutional law that somehow managed to get passed while nobody was paying attention.

If you ask a social worker or law enforcement officer, they'll tell you that this law allows them to enter your home without any judicial oversight or accountability whatsoever. But what does the law really say? What exactly is interference with an investigation?

When asserting that a parent is interfering with an investigation, the government agent relies on G.S. 7B-303, which states in pertinent part:

For purposes of this section, obstruction of or interference with an investigation means refusing to disclose the whereabouts of the juvenile, refusing to allow the director to have personal access to the juvenile, refusing to allow the director to observe or interview the juvenile in private, refusing to allow the director access to confidential information and records upon request pursuant to G.S. 7B-302, refusing to allow the director to arrange for an evaluation of the juvenile by a physician or other expert.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(b))

Interference with an investigation relates solely to obstructing access to the alleged victim; it does not apply to the parents' refusal to speak with a social worker, refusal to allow the worker to speak with children that are not the subject of the report or refusal to allow the worker to enter their home.

The appellate court has recently clarified this law with respect to entering a home:

Social worker's investigation . does not require that social worker physically enter parents' home to conduct interviews with children.

(In re Stumbo, 2001, 143 N.C.App. 375, 547 S.E.2d 451)

Refusing to allow a DSS worker into your home does not in any way amount to interference with an investigation.

Both North Carolina statute and DSS policy require the director (not just any low-level worker) to seek a court order if she believes the parents are interfering with an investigation.

If any person obstructs or interferes with an investigation required by G.S. 7B-302, the director may file a petition naming said person as respondent and requesting an order directing the respondent to cease such obstruction or interference.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(a))

And DSS policy states:

In this situation, the family should be informed of the law. If necessary, the agency director can file a petition so that the court can order the family to cease such obstruction.

(DSS Manual, Chap. VIII, Sec. 1414(II)(A))

In seeking an order, DSS must specifically describe the conduct that interferes with interviewing the child and verify it.

The petition shall . specifically describe the conduct alleged to constitute obstruction of or interference with the investigation, and shall be verified.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(a))

The burden of proof is on DSS to show that there is cause for an actual investigation, that the parents have interfered with interviewing the alleged victim-child and that they are without lawful excuse.

If at the hearing on the petition the court finds by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the respondent, without lawful excuse, has obstructed or interfered with an investigation required by G.S. 7B-302, the court may order the respondent to cease such obstruction or interference. The burden of proof shall be on the petitioner.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(c))

Since the appellate court has clarified (above) that this law does not allow a DSS worker to enter the home to conduct her interview, parents are not without lawful excuse in refusing to allow a DSS worker to enter their home.

Additionally, the parents must be served notice of this hearing so that they may be present and be heard.

Upon filing of the petition, the court shall schedule a hearing to be held not less than five days after service of the petition and summons on the respondent. Service of the petition and summons and notice of hearing shall be made as provided by the Rules of Civil Procedure on the respondent; the juvenile's parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; and any other person determined by the court to be a necessary party.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(c))

Before a crime can be committed, DSS must first attain a court order.

An order entered pursuant to this section is enforceable by civil or criminal contempt as provided in Chapter 5A of the General Statutes.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(f))

A crime hasn't occurred until the parents disobey the court order. This law does not give DSS unrestricted access to enter people's homes at will without the protection of court oversight.

Has DSS used threats to gain entry into your home without a court order? File a Complaint here.

Send mail to ncweb@cpswatch.com with questions or comments about this web site.

Copyright 2003 CPS Watch North Carolina

________________________________________________________________________
Message: 6
Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 19:20:26 -0600
From: "Cha'kwaina" <chakwaina@comcast.net>
Subject: NOTICE TO DSS WORKERS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

i am going through some files and will be sending in things that can be of use to people.

Use these as you see fit and make sure to research your own state and local laws and to change any references to state or local laws to the correct thing for you.
 
NOTICE TO DSS WORKERS
 
AND LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
 
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED.
 

I will not waive my fourth amendment rights or consent to your intrusion into my home.

Social worker's investigation . does not require that social worker physically enter parents' home to conduct interviews with children.

(In re Stumbo, 2001, 143 N.C.App. 375, 547 S.E.2d 451)

A court order is required, pursuant to the federal Constitution, North Carolina statutes and DSS policy, prior to entering a home.

If any person obstructs or interferes with an investigation required by G.S. 7B-302, the director may file a petition naming said person as respondent and requesting an order directing the respondent to cease such obstruction or interference.

(N.C.G.S.A. 7B-303(a))

In this situation, the family should be informed of the law. If necessary, the agency director can file a petition so that the court can order the family to cease such obstruction.

(DSS Manual, Chap. VIII, Sec. 1414(II)(A))

Violations of the fourth amendment have been held to include the use of threats or intimidation as a means of coercing entry.

Schneckloth v. Bustamonte - Consent to warrantless entry must be voluntary and not the result of duress or coercion. Lack of intelligence, not understanding the right not to consent, or trickery invalidate voluntary consent.

Florida v. Bostick (S.Ct. 1991) - "Consent" that is the product of official intimidation or harassment is not consent at all. Citizens do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they are coerced to comply with a request that they would prefer to refuse.

Cassady v. Tackett - Coercive or intimidating behavior supports a reasonable belief that compliance is compelled.

Social Workers and Law Enforcement Officers have no immunity for knowing violating civil rights.

Calabretta v. Floyd (9th Cir. 1999) - Police officers and social workers are not immune for coercing or forcing entry into a person's home without a search warrant.

We conclude that on appellants' first issue, whether they were protected by qualified immunity regarding their coerced entry into the Calabrettas' home, the district court was right. They were not.


You will be held personally liable for your actions.

Information sheet provided by CPS Watch North Carolina (www.cpswatch.com/nc) as a public service.