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NC Supreme Court vindicates parents' stand
Filed: September 15, 1999, Cleveland County.
Nature of Case: At about 7 a.m., a two-year-old daughter went outside without her clothes. About three minutes later, her brother brought her back inside. Within two hours, a social worker demanded entry into the home and individual interviews with each child without the presence of their mother. The family refused and DSS filed a petition alleging "interference with a child abuse investigation."
1-25-00 The trial judge ruled that social workers are not "state actors," that a child neglect investigation is not a "search," and that the Fourth Amendment did not provide the parents with a "lawful excuse" to refuse entry.
5-15-01 A divided North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the social services investigation was not a "search" and therefore, the Fourth Amendment did not apply. The appeals court found that the social worker was not insisting upon entry into the home, nor was she statutorily required to do so. Judge Greene dissented, however, insisting that social services investigations are "searches" and are subject to the Constitution. Judge Greene's dissent guarantees the Stumbos the right to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
7-16-03 The North Carolina Supreme Court voted 7-0 that social services should not have even begun an investigation based on the anonymous report of a two-year-old child outside with nothing on. In addition, three justices agreed that social services' request to interview the children violated the Fourth Amendment.
Last Update: July 21, 2003.
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