You Can Remain Silent but Not Cooperating Can Be Bad
Video Transcribed: Do you have to make a statement to the Department of Human Services if there’s an investigator on your doorstep? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I am a Tulsa father’s attorney here at Dads.Law where fathers are not disposable. And I want to talk about whether or not you are required to cooperate with the Department of Human Services if they’re investigating you on allegations of child abuse or neglect. And the short answer is yes and no.
In a criminal context, a social worker is exactly the same as a cop. They are considered an agent of the state. You do not have to speak to them. You have a right against self-incrimination in criminal court. And that’s the key phrase here in criminal court. Now, if you were talking about family court or deprived court or any other civil court dealing with your children and you refuse to cooperate with the Department of Human Services, that can create a negative inference against you for your non-cooperation. And I have seen plenty of deprived cases where the state will be asking for an adjudication that the child’s deprived. In other words, per removal of the children or child based on one or both parents’ refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
Remember, deprived court child welfare proceedings are civil. They are not criminals. So yeah, you have a right to remain silent in criminal court, but if you don’t cooperate with the Department of Human Services in a child welfare investigation, it can bite you in the backside hard in child welfare court. Also, along those same lines, family court is another situation. If one parent is cooperative and is making allegations about the other parent and the other parent acts shady or doesn’t want to cooperate, it can be used against them in family court on custody proceedings. So again, understand that that negative presumption is a potential threat in civil court and family court where it would not be in criminal court.
Now, there may be very good reasons not to cooperate with them. For example, if you’ve been accused of something serious and you’re under criminal investigation, you may not have a choice but to shut your mouth. I mean, if you’ve been accused, for example, of child sexual abuse and you’ve got the police breathing down your neck and they’re investigating you as a potential child molester, yeah, you probably want to shut your mouth for the short term, even if it leads to a negative inference because you’re not going to be able to fight that battle from prison. And if you say something and incriminate yourself, that’s where you’re going to wind up.
So there is a time and a place where you may not want to talk to DHS, but just be aware that when you take it outside of the criminal context, that right against making statements that are derogatory against yourself doesn’t exist, not in the same way. And there are negative inferences that can be taken from your refusal to cooperate.
This is why any time you have contact from DHS involving some kind of an allegation, you really need a good lawyer so they can advise you on how best to respond or if you should respond. One place you can find a good family lawyer in Oklahoma is Dads.Law where fathers are not disposable.