Any officer of the court, whether it be a social worker or police officer, must have a court warrant in order to step through your door in DCPP cases. As with any criminal investigation, evidence of the alleged crime must be presented to a judge, who will then decide whether that evidence contains sufficient probable cause for issuance of a warrant.
Many parents are unaware of the number of steps and potential pitfalls involved in these kinds of investigations and related litigation. For this reason, it is crucial they seek representation from an experienced DCPP attorney who is familiar with this specific area of law and can protect their rights.
What Should I Do if I Am Contacted By DCPP?
It can be daunting to be unexpectedly contacted by someone investigating the welfare of your children. The following is a guideline for how to handle a DCPP investigation of allegations of child abuse or child neglect in your home:
- If you are phoned or contacted in person by a social worker about an allegation made against you, ask about the exact nature of the complaint, and write down the details.
- Ask the social worker or police officer at your door for their identification and write down their badge numbers.
- If investigators ask to come into your home, politely ask to see a court warrant that gives them the authority to enter against your will.
- If you have advance notice of the investigation and expect a home visit, be prepared to document all aspects of the visit.
- If investigators insist they do not need a warrant, explain you will be glad to cooperate if they return with warrant or court order signed by a judge.
- If officers demand to enter your home, it is advisable to step aside and address the abuse of authority with your DCPP attorney afterwards.
When Can Someone Legally Enter My Home Without a Warrant?
In rare situations, known as “exigent circumstances,” police officers are legally permitted to enter a home without a warrant. Examples include cases of “hot pursuit,” or an emergency involving the immediate need to save someone from serious bodily harm. However, social workers investigating an anonymous allegation of child abuse or neglect would rarely be exempt from the legal requirement to have a warrant.
In cases where the risk to a child cannot be assessed unless the home is evaluated, DCPP may conclude that missing information is essential to presume a harm exists. After weighing the balance of required factors, workers or officers may decide that the only safe alternative is to remove the child and await a determination by a judge. A knowledgeable DCPP attorney can help you understand your rights and legal options in these kinds of situations.
When Do I Have to Comply with DCPP Demands?
It is important to understand your legal rights if a DCPP worker or police officer tries to convince or coerce you to do anything against your will. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly comply with demands they believe to be mandatory, all while DCPP workers are building a case against them with their cooperation. You should never assume that you are required to show up the county DCPP offices, or bring your children to be interviewed, without being served with a court order.
While it helps to stay cordial, you do not have to speak to investigators, allow DCPP to speak with your children, or sign any paperwork from social workers or other officers. It is essential, however, to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney as soon as any requests are made of you by DCPP or other officers.
New Jersey DCPP Attorneys at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Can Protect Your Rights in DCPP Cases
Legal matters involving DCPP require the assistance of a skilled attorney to ensure a fair outcome. Our dedicated New Jersey DCPP attorney at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker will fight to protect your rights and best interests. Trial attorney Ted Baker has over two decades of experience in this area of law. He provides his compassion and extensive knowledge of the system for each client.
For more information, call us at 856-210-9776 or contact us online. Conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Voorhees, and throughout South Jersey.