Sixth Amendment Protections Do Not Apply to CACI Hearings

In theory, the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) is a necessity that keeps the children of California safe and gives parents peace of mind.

A lot of the time, in practice, this list has proven useful. It prevents dangerous individuals from partaking in activities with children, such as at a YMCA, for example.

However, in our time spent serving falsely accused clients, the CACI's rules tend to trample on civil liberties. There are even instances where adults, proven factually innocent of child abuse, struggle to remove their names from the CACI.

It's an inexcusable flaw in the system, and you must always fight for your rights in this scenario. In saying that, when you're involved in a CACI hearing to get your name removed from the database, you must be fully informed about the process.

Namely, in such a scenario, you must know which of your rights are protected and which are not protected.

For instance, Sixth Amendment protections do not apply to CACI grievance hearings.

What are Your Sixth Amendment Rights?

Much of what we discuss here has been borrowed from the following: Jonathan Grossman. “Constitutional Rights Available in Proceedings Other Than Criminal Trials.”

In a criminal case, the accused has the right to a speedy and public trial in front of an impartial jury.

Criminally accused individuals also have the right to know the nature and cause of the accusation and to confront the witnesses against them. They also benefit from being able to gather witnesses in their favor and to obtain legal counsel to mount a defense.

In more direct terms, the Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the following rights: 1) right to counsel, 2) right to confrontation, 3) right to present a defense, and 4) right to a speedy trial.

Let’s examine these rights a bit further.

The Right to Counsel

A defendant has the right to obtain counsel at vital stages in the legal proceedings. A violation of these rights exists only when a jail sentence is possible without the defendant being given a chance of procuring an attorney's services.

While traffic ticket cases are technically criminal in nature (because they are punitive), because you cannot be sent to jail on a traffic ticket, the Sixth Amendment offers you no right to counsel on a traffic ticket case.

When a criminal case has reached its end, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel doesn't have precedent anymore.

How Does This Impact Your CACI Hearing?

Your right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment refers to an attorney provided by the government, but it does not apply in non-criminal cases. While you're free to hire an attorney in a non-criminal case, governing bodies don't offer you one for free (or at all, actually).

So, if you require a lawyer to guide you through the CACI hearing process, you're on your own when it comes to finding someone. The county child welfare services agency will not provide you with a lawyer to represent you in your CACI grievance hearing.

The Right to Confrontation

Similar to your right to counsel, the right to confrontation only exists during criminal cases and during a trial.

How Does This Impact Your CACI Hearing?

The Sixth Amendment right to confrontation does not apply to CACI proceedings.

CACI grievance hearings are not criminal trials. They are informal administrative proceedings that, unfortunately, afford us no subpoena power. So we cannot subpoena someone to testify at your hearing in order to give us the opportunity to “confront” them.

This can be frustrating because if a CPS worker or criminal investigator incorrectly puts you in the CACI and the worker ends up moving out of town or stops working for the county, we can't force them to testify at the hearing.

The Right to Present a Defense

Again, your Sixth Amendment right to present a defense only exists during a criminal proceeding. And, to reiterate, your CACI hearing isn't a criminal trial.

How Does This Impact Your CACI Hearing?

Fortunately, we are now allowed to put together a defense at your hearing. (It didn’t used to be that way. Prior to 2008, we weren’t even allowed to have witnesses or even a hearing at all!) Compared to the criminal defense process, though, we are somewhat hamstrung in that we aren't allowed compel someone to testify at the hearing through the subpoena process. Nor can we use the court’s subpoena power to force third party entities (such as schools, hospitals, etc.) to give us records or documents.

The Right to a Speedy Trial

Your Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial only exists in criminal cases. It doesn't apply to any civil proceedings.

How Does This Impact Your CACI Hearing?

Because CACI grievance proceedings are civil in nature (as opposed to criminal in nature), the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial doesn’t apply.

Getting your name wiped out of the CACI database can be a drawn-out process. We can't force the government into expediting and shortening your wait for your hearing date. Patience will have to be your virtue when clearing your good name.

While there is a state regulation that says you have a right to have a CACI grievance hearing within 60 days of the county’s receipt of your request for a hearing, the regulation gives us no way to enforce that right. There is almost nothing we can do to make the county give you a hearing within the 60 days.

Don't Fret Over the Inability to Use the Sixth Amendment to Your Advantage

Knowledge is power. As frustrating as it might be to be told what you can't do, being aware of your boundaries gives you a proper perspective on what you’re up against and on how to seek other solutions.

No, we can’t subpoena witnesses or force the government into speeding up your CACI hearing. But knowing what we can’t do has prompted us to zero in on other aspects of the constitution that will protect your rights and clear your name.