Teachers, classroom aides and other professionals that work with children are at risk of false accusations. A child, disgruntled co-worker, or an overzealous supervisor may initiate an accusation. Parents are at a similar risk of false accusations, especially in divorce and custody proceedings. False accusations can take many forms including claims of child abuse (both criminal and civil), child neglect, assault and battery, and sex offenses. Nothing can be more damaging to your reputation, your psychological well being, your career, and your family than a false accusation that you committed child abuse or assault upon a child. A false accusation often prompts investigation by social services, police, and one’s employer. Each investigation has its own process, methods, and result. The various investigations and adjudications can be confusing and overwhelming.
Attorneys at Kahn, Smith & Collins have represented hundreds of individuals who have been falsely accused. We are familiar with not only the law, but the investigatory processes and the agencies responsible for them. We have been instrumental in developing law to protect those who are wrongfully accused. Representative cases include Hayward v. Department of Human Resources, 177 Md. App. 402, 935 A.2d 493 (2007), Montgomery County Dept. of Social Services v. L.D., 349 Md. 239, 707 A.2d 1331 (1998) and C.S. v. Prince George’s County Dept. of Social Services, 343 Md. 14, 680 A.2d 470 (1995).
Know Your Rights
Even before you contact us, you should know that there are multiple areas of the law that come into play when false accusations are made. You need to protect yourself.
The local Department of Social Services or Child Protective Services may commence an investigation. Its investigator may contact you and attempt to get you to make a statement. The investigator will determine whether child abuse is “indicated”, “ruled out,” or “unsubstantiated.” If the finding is “indicated” or “unsubstantiated” your name will be placed in a child abuse registry unless you successfully appeal the finding. The investigator is not your friend. You need to contact us as soon as possible. Until you do, DO NOT SPEAK WITH THE INVESTIGATOR OTHER THAN TO OBTAIN HIS OR HER NAME AND PHONE NUMBER.
Police & Criminal Prosecution
Second, a school police officer, a city or county child abuse detective, or an investigator from the local Office of the State’s Attorney may contact you as part of a criminal investigation. These individuals will determine whether criminal charges should be filed against you. Again, you need to contact us as soon as possible. DO NOT SPEAK WITH THE INVESTIGATOR OTHER THAN TO OBTAIN HIS OR HER NAME AND PHONE NUMBER.
Third, if the false accusations concern something that you supposedly did at work, your employer may decide to take disciplinary action against you, which could result in your suspension or termination. Your employer may investigate the accusations. Your rights concerning whether and under what circumstances you should speak vary according to whether you are employed in the private or public sector and whether you are represented by a labor union. (If you are represented by a union, you need to know about your Weingarten rights.) In any event, TRY NOT TO SPEAK WITH THEM WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. Keep in mind, however, that, depending on where you are employed, a refusal to speak could result in an accusation of insubordination, which could also lead to discipline on the job.
Your Professional License or Certification
Fourth, if you hold a professional license or certification and your name is listed in a child abuse registry, or if you are convicted of child abuse, proceedings to suspend or revoke your professional license could be brought against you. Contact us immediately if you are notified of such proceedings.
Civil Suit for Damages
Fifth, you may be sued in civil court for money damages. If you are served with a summons and/or complaint, you should contact us immediately. Failure to respond may result in a default judgment being issued.
DO NOT TRY TO REPRESENT YOURSELF. Too much is at stake.