Your CACI Listing Infringes on Your Constitutional Liberty Interests

The 14th amendment's due process clause states the following:

"No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

The matter of due process is a critical talking point in any matter relating a listing in the Child Abuse Central Index.

You might think that Twitter rage and public opinion have only recently impacted our legal system. Such violations of the 14th amendment have been an issue for centuries.

Due process, and the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty, are integral parts of the constitution.

Of course, there are emotionally charged scenarios that can make us all thirst for justice and punishment before the facts come to light. But the American constitution makes sure that suspects still benefit from rights, freedoms, and liberties. Otherwise, the society we cherish so much would crumble at our very feet.

A critical facet of due process is how your liberty interests are protected. Let's explore this notion further.

The Two-Step Method of Procedural Due Process

The information provided here comes from a comment in an academic journal: Jill D. Moore, “Charting a Course between Scylla and Charybdis: Child Abuse Registries and Procedural Due Process,” 73 N.C.L. Rev. 2063, Sept. 1995 (section III).

Here are two critical steps that are considered in procedural due process:

  1. Determining if there's been any intrusion by the state into an individual interest protected by the constitution.
  2. Deciding if the procedures that led to this intrusion adhered to the constitution.

Remember that the 14th Amendment protects life, liberty, and property. Thus, there are liberty and property interests subject to constitutional protection. Here, we’ll focus primarily on interests that have categorized by the courts as “liberty” interests (versus property interests).

What are the Liberties Protected by Due Process?

Initially, the word “liberty” in the 14th Amendment was interpreted as meaning freedom from personal restraint, but in the late 1800s, the scope of the meaning of “liberty” expanded.

By 1923, greater liberty interests were protected by the constitution. This included the rights of the individual to contract and engage in the "common occupations of life." This included the ability to learn, marry, establish a home, raise children, and worship God. Also included within the scope of “liberty” (as meant in the 14th Amendment0 is the ability to engage in activities that are recognized in common law as “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

How Broad is the Scope of Liberty Interests in 2020?

There are still due process-related protections that apply to you when dealing with false allegations of child abuse. In particular, the courts have held that “liberty” includes interests in family privacy, family integrity, informational privacy, and employment.

You might also benefit from liberty interest-based protection for reputation and freedom from stigma.

Below, we'll explore these liberty interests in greater detail:

Liberty Interest in the Family and Parent-Child Relationship

The modern legal system supports the liberty interest in the parent-child relationship. Strong constitutional protections are at play concerning the right to custody and control of parental upbringing. There's also the matter of family integrity and privacy.

Even in the face of child abuse accusations, this liberty interest should continue to outweigh those of the state. But this doesn't mean that the parent-child relationship can't be fractured when child maltreatment is suspected.

In those instances where abuse is suspected, liberty interest doesn't just disappear, but the state might be allowed to intrude. The legal system dictates that state intrusion is allowed when investigating such allegations, and to provide protective services for the child, on an as-needed basis.

Remember that the 14th Amendment does not forbid all government intrusion into your liberty interests. It only prohibits government intrusion “without due process of law.”

If the correct constitutional procedures have been followed, government may intrude into your liberty interests by removing your parental rights due to suspected abuse or neglect.

Aside from depriving you of your parental rights by removing your child, courts have held that when the government puts your name on the Child Abuse Central Index it is intruding (infringing) on your liberty interests that we call “familial privacy” (under the federal Constitution) and “informational privacy” (under the California Constitution).

The liberty interest can still outweigh state interest even if the latter's plight was viewed as stronger. The court weighs both individual and state interests when reaching a conclusion of whether procedural protections have been upheld when the state has acted against these interests.

To learn more about how a CACI listing infringes on your familial privacy rights, read Humphries v. County of Los Angeles, 554 F.3d 1170 (2008). To learn more about how a CACI listing infringes your informational privacy rights, read Burt v. County of Orange, 120 Cal.App.4th 273 (2004) and Saraswati v. County of San Diego, 202 Cal.App.4th 917 (2011) and Gonzalez v. Santa Clara County Dept. of Social Services, 223 Cal.App.4th 72 (2014).

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