A Sheriff and his deputy used pepper spray and a Taser on a Missouri couple in front of their young children while trying to seize the kids without a warrant, a federal lawsuit charges.
The sheriff took the action because the homeschooling couple refused to consent to a “welfare check” by a state social worker, the suit by the Home School Legal Defense Association alleges.
“On Sept. 30, 2011, Capt. David Glidden and Sheriff Darren White, both of the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Department, forcefully entered the home of Jason and Laura Hagan, without consent or court order,” the suit filed by HSLDA this month alleges. “The officers pepper sprayed Jason, Laura and their dog, and Glidden shot Jason with this TASER.”
White and Glidden took the action because an unidentified caseworker from the Missouri Department of Social Services asked for their help, said the Hagans’ attorney, Peter Kamakawiwo’ole Jr.
The worker was apparently there to check on the welfare of the Hagans’ three children, who are homeschooled. The Hagans refused to let her into their home.
The social worker came to the Hagans’ home to investigate claims their house was “messy,” HSLDA alleged. The social worker had been inside the house several days earlier and was there for a follow-up visit.
Sheriff Violated Constitution
A state judge later determined that Glidden and White violated the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution by entering the Hagan home without a warrant. HSLDA and the Hagans allege that the officers became aggressive after the Hagans’ said they wanted to contact a lawyer.
“While Laura was talking with Captain Glidden, Jason called the Home School Defense Association to seek legal advice on how to respond to Captain Glidden and the social worker,” the lawsuit charges. “Captain Glidden grabbed Laura’s wrist and attempted to pull Laura off the front porch.”
Glidden then entered the house and pepper sprayed the Hagans in front of their children. Glidden allegedly used a Taser on Jason a number of times even though Laura told him that her husband had been taken to the emergency room for chest pains — symptoms of a heart attack — earlier in the week.
A Taser or “stun gun” is an electroshock weapon that police and prison guards sometimes use to incapacitate suspects. Most Tasers fire dart-like electrodes into a person’s skin to deliver an electroshock designed to stun a person. There have been cases where Tasers caused heart attacks and deaths.
Laura and Jason Hagan were then handcuffed and taken to the county jail. Their children were placed into protective custody. The couple was later released and their children were returned to them.
Criminal charges were brought against the Hagans but dismissed because White lacked a warrant.
“The State has not offered sufficient, if indeed any, evidence of an exception that would justify a warrantless entry,” the trial court judge noted.
HSLDA applauded the ruling and said the police and social worker must be held accountable.
“The Fourth Amendment strikes a carefully crafted balance between a family’s right to privacy and the government’s need to enforce the law,” said HSDLA senior counsel James Mason. “In most situations, government agents cannot simply force their way into a home. Instead, they must explain to a neutral magistrate why they need to enter the home, and they must provide real evidence to support that need. This rule applies to all government agents. Court after court has agreed that there is no social services exception to the Fourth Amendment.”
Parents are within their legal rights if they ask a social worker for a warrant before a “welfare check.”
“All too often,” Mason said, “law enforcement officers and child-welfare workers act as if the Fourth Amendment does not apply to CPS investigations. They are wrong. The Fourth Amendment is a legal shield that protects people from exactly the kind of mistreatment the Hagans endured.”
Home investigations can cause great emotional harm to children, HSLDA said. HSLDA quoted a study from Duke University’s Doriane L. Coleman, who found that home investigations can shatter the innocence of children, causing a broad range of emotional responses, including “trauma, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, stigmatization, powerlessness, self-doubt, depression, and isolation.”
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