Social workers, deputy sheriffs, and assistant DA’s have been known to throw their weight around and attempt to intimidate citizens with both overt and implied threats. While I don’t believe its a good idea to get confrontational with authority figures, there are times when you have to, at the very least, quietly oppose official oppression.
The US Constitution and a long line of English common-law cases have established the principal that government agents may not enter your home and search it without either a warrant or your permission. Social workers are not a higher-class of being with powers that trump the constitution. There is an exception to the requirement for a warrant: if there is probably cause to believe that children are in imminent danger.
But a cavalier threat to arrest parents and take children into custody based on an anonymous tip unless the parents consent to a search of their home is cruel, oppressive, and a violation of the constitution.
That appears to be precisely what happened to a homeschooling family in Arizona in March of 2005. Social workers at the door, demanding that they be allowed to search the house. Backed by sheriff’s deputies, eventually backed up via phone by an assistant district attorney. Let us in to search your house, or we’ll arrest you, take your children away from you, and then search your house anyway.
The Fourth Amendment
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The homeschooling family filed a federal lawsuit against the social workers, the sherifs deputies, and the assistant DA. The government lawyers filed a motion to dismiss based on “qualified immunity.” The government lawyers just lost.
The federal judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit and it appears it will now proceed to trial. The ruling is not a final victory in this matter, but its an important step.
Here’s hoping that the case will be pursued to clearly establish that the Fourth Amendment is still in force, and that social workers, sheriff’s deputies, and assistant district attorneys will face consequences when they use their offices to violate citizen’s rights.
Director, Schaeffer Study Center