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We at the Witches' Voice are continually compiling a important reference documents, form letters that you can use in your local fight for YOUR freedom... Note: The Witches' Voice Inc. does not offer legal advice nor are we qualified to do so. This document does not constitute legal advice but is intended to be used in conjunction with the legal services of an attorney licensed to practice in your state. This document can be copied and distributed to your lawyer should you decide that you need the services of one.
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Tips from a Pagan Police Officer|
How to handle a visit from the Child Protective Services
Merry Meet & Brightest Blessings To All.|
Like many Pagan Parents from our community I am a "closet witch". I have chosen to stay in the broom closet because as a police officer, the trust of those I work with is more than just something nice to have. For me it's not just a question of employer bias, or on the job harassment. I have been in some really dangerous situations, and I depend on the people I work with. They also depend on me, and unfortunately police officers are by nature suspicious of anything they don't immediately understand. There are laws which protect all of us from religious harassment on the job, by the government or even the public. However, what is the law is not always reality.
No where is this more evident than issues involving parents' rights or allegations of child abuse/neglect. The following is not, and should not be taken as legal advice. It is a little bit of insight by a fellow pagan who has been on "the other side" of those parenting issues.
First of all, let me say that each state is a little bit different in how their agencies handle complaints of child abuse/neglect, so you should familiarize yourself with your state's procedures if this is a concern for you. If you don't know where to look or who to ask, I'll cover that later on.
Second, don't panic. The police and CPS investigate literally tens of thousands of complaints each year, and several thousands of those are unfounded. Most investigators realize this and approach each situation with this in mind.
In most states child abuse/neglect complaints are first handled by "CPS" or Child Protective Services. They are a division of the Health and Human Services/Welfare Department.
Many states have laws requiring CPS to make reports of criminal activity to their local police agencies. Others require the police to become immediately involved until it is determined that the reported situation is either unfounded or non-criminal. This can be both good and bad. "Good," because when the police are involved you have greater rights regarding questioning, and "search and seizure." However, it can also be bad if the officer is biased or a little too overzealous. Also, criminal matters are generally public record.
Whenever the police are questioning you regarding a possible criminal matter, they are required to inform you of the allegation they are investigating, and whether or not you are a possible suspect. Contrary to popular belief, they do not have to inform you of who made the allegation until you go to court. Nor do they have to "read you your rights" in every situation, so be careful. If you are indicated as a suspect, you do not have to answer any questions. Also, if you are actually charged with a crime, you have the right to an appointed lawyer (hopefully that won't happen). If you feel threatened by the type or manner of questions put to you, you can simply refuse to respond. For the investigator this is just part of his job. However, his job is to look for any truth to the allegations made, so don't be rude or uncooperative. Simply indicate that you want to help the investigator in any way, and that you too want to get to the truth, but that you are also concerned about being "trapped" or giving up any of your rights as a parent.
In my state inviting the police into your home is not a permission to search, nor does it indicate you are "waiving" any of your rights. You can stop an interview or refuse to allow investigators to search your home at any time you choose unless they have a warrant or unless some other special circumstances exist. This may not be true in your state though, so be sure and know the law before that situation exists. If in doubt, always stay on the side of caution but remember, be polite. A refusal to answer certain questions is not grounds for the removal of a child or criminal charges. However, refusing to cooperate with the investigators may be.
In most cases, we as pagan parents faced with this situation are not under investigation for criminal wrong doing so it's unlikely the police will ever be involved. Usually, it will be a complaint stemming from either a vindictive ex, or an overly suspicious/biased neighbor. This can also be good or bad. "Good" because we don't face the possibility of criminal charges or a "public airing" of our private lives. "Bad" because when it's just CPS involved, believe it or not, many of the rights you thought you had no longer exist. In many states a CPS investigator can enter and search your home without a warrant. In a few cases (usually depending on the allegation, or the state), you have to answer all of the investigator's questions. Again, it is always best to be polite and to cooperate, but don't give up any of your rights as a parent. It is always a good idea to get legal advice before responding to questions especially if you feel uncomfortable answering them by yourself. It is also a good idea to get legal advice before allowing a CPS investigator into your home. It is not a good idea to argue with the investigator when asserting your rights. If they insist or threaten you, seek legal advice as soon as possible, and never ever sign anything you don't fully understand. The investigator does not have the final say. A court judge does, so don't let yourself get bogged down in some sort of personal battle with the investigator.
Where do you go for legal advice? Every county in every state has some sort of legal aid. Usually this aid is free, but it may not always be fast. You can also go to the county court house. There should be a legal library there where you can research any legal topic for free. Most of these libraries also have a clerk who can help you in your research or with getting copies of the law. Bear in mind that they cannot give legal advice, but they can point you in the right direction, or help you get copies of the laws and court cases which pertain to your situation. Many cities, especially larger ones, have some sort of parent's rights organization which you can call with questions or to ask for help. Don't overlook other pagans who may have gone through the same situation. Their experience can be invaluable. Learn from their mistakes so that you don't have to learn from your own. Finally, the Internet is full of Pagan or Religious Freedom organizations that you can turn to.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a CPS investigation, don't panic. With Goddess' help, and a little clear thinking you can get through this "burning time."
Love and Light,
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