A court in Missouri has ruled a raid staged against a homeschooling family in 2011 violated their constitutional rights.
Police entered the home of Jason and Laura Hagan without a search warrant. The couple were shot with tasers and Laura Hagan was slapped in the face by a police officer. Police also threatened to shoot the family dog when the couple refused to cooperate with social service workers. Pepper spray was also used on the couple.
The Hagans were charged with child endangerment and resisting arrest following a previous visit by state officials who claimed their home was messy. The family complied with a first inspection but refused a second, resulting in the police raid.
The Hagans lost custody of their children for months following the raid. The children witnessed the police assault on their parents.
The court ruled the police raid was unconstitutional. “The court will not allow [an] exception to sanction warrantless entry into a private residence by pepper spray and Taser. If the officer had a warrant in hand and such force was necessary, that is a different story, but those are not the facts of this case,” the court stated.
“The Fourth Amendment strikes a carefully crafted balance between a family’s right to privacy and the government’s need to enforce the law,” a report by the Home School Legal Defense Association states. “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.”
“All too often, 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.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association represented the Hagans in the case.
The report also cited Doriane L. Coleman, a law professor at Duke, who wrote “Storming the Castle to Save the Children: The Ironic Costs of a Child-welfare Exception to the Fourth Amendment.”
Violent police raids, she writes, “can shatter the innocence of even the youngest of children, causing a broad range of emotional responses,” including “trauma, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, stigmatization, powerlessness, self-doubt, depression, and isolation.”