A Missouri homeschooling family is suing a sheriff and another officer who forcibly entered their home without a warrant, Tasered the father, pepper-sprayed the mother and put their children in the custody of social service workers.
A court already has ruled that the actions of Sheriff Darren White and Capt. David Glidden of Nodaway County, Missouri, violated the U.S. Constitution, resulting in the dismissal of charges of child endangerment and resisting arrest against the couple, Jason and Laura Hagan, of New Hampton.
The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys costs and fees, was brought on behalf of the couple by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s leading advocate for homeschooling families.
Attorney James Mason, senior counsel for HSLDA, told WND the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure were added to the Constitution for a reason.
“We need to be vigilant,” he said. “We need to be willing to stand up for our rights.”
He said authorities sometimes need to be reminded that “rules apply to them, too.”
The complaint, filed Nov. 14, alleges the the officers came to the Hagan residence because a social worker was investigating a report of a messy home.
The case worker wanted to inspect a second time, and the Hagans refused, so she called Glidden and White.
Glidden first demanded to be allowed into the home and was denied permission. So, according to the complaint, he pepper-sprayed Jason and then Laura.
“Glidden then turned to Jason, who was still standing, and shot him in the back with his Taser,” the complaint said.
When Laura closed the front door, Glidden continued triggering the Taser through the closed door.
Then White joined in.
“Together they forced open the door and found Laura and Jason lying on the floor,” HSLDA said.
They “slapped Laura, knocking her glasses off of her face,” they threatened to shoot the family dog, they threw a telephone across the room, called Laura a “liar,” handcuffed the parents and threatened to let Jason fall down, according to the complaint.
It all took place in front of the three children, ages about 13, 10 and 8, who were taken into state custody, where they remained for months.
When the allegations made by social workers and the officers against the couple reached court, a judge summarily tossed the case.
“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 judge said
The judge ruled all information the officers obtained was disallowed.
“The state has not offered sufficient, if indeed any, evidence of an exception that would justify a warrantless entry,” the judge said.
A WND request to the sheriff’s office for comment did not produce a response.
“The Fourth Amendment strikes a carefully crafted balance between a family’s right to privacy and the government’s need to enforce the law,” said HSLDA in its report. “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,” the report said. “Court after court has agreed that there is no social services exception to the Fourth Amendment.”
The report said: “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 organization said warnings of the consequences of violating the Fourth Amendment are abundant.
It quoted Doriane L. Coleman, a law professor at Duke who has written “Storming the Castle to Save the Children: The Ironic Costs of a Child-welfare Exception to the Fourth Amendment.”
Coleman wrote that the law-enforcement actions “epitomize deep intrusion[s] in both symbolic and actual respects.”
“They 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.'”
HSLDA’s report said there “are rules, and they exist for a reason.”
“Law enforcement can only work if our officers follow the laws themselves. If we stand by and allow law enforcement to flagrantly disregard our Fourth Amendment rights, those rights will be eroded and eventually ignored. And real parents and real children will continue to be harmed,” the report said.
The Missouri case alleges violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search, unlawful seizure, excessive force and violation of the plaintiffs’ “family integrity and privacy.”