A homeschooling family in Missouri filed a lawsuit in a federal district court this week against two police officers, claiming that the officers deprived them of their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution for actions that allegedly occurred when the police entered their home without a warrant in September 2011, including the parents being attacked with Tasers and pepper spray and being physically assaulted, all in front of their children.
Jason and Laura Hagan, who home school their three children, were the subject of an investigation by Child Protective Services alleging that their home was messy. The Hagans had been in contact with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and had complied with an initial inspection of their home, but balked when the social worker returned for a second inspection, along with two police officers, Sheriff Darren White and Captain David Glidden, both of the Nodaway County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Office. There were no allegations that the children were being abused, neglected, or otherwise endangered, only the report of the home being “messy.”
According to the allegations in the complaint, when the social worker and two police officers arrived at the home, Laura Hagan was on the front porch and David Hagan was inside with the children. The police officers did not have a warrant or other court order to search the Hagan’s home, and the Hagans did not consent to the search. Glidden grabbed Laura’s wrist and attempted to pull her off the porch. Laura pulled away, and went inside the house. Glidden demanded entry into the home to “check on the wellbeing of the children.” The Hagans repeatedly refused entry without a warrant, but the police insisted.
The interactions then got physical, as the police officers forced their way into the home. Both Hagans were repeatedly pepper sprayed in the face, and Jason was Tasered multiple times, despite Laura warning the police that he had recently been hospitalized for chest pains. Tasers have been blamed for causing injury and even death when used on people with heart problems. The Hagans were also physically assaulted; Laura was slapped in the face, knocking off her glasses, and Jason was kicked in the leg after he had fallen to the floor. Their dog was also pepper sprayed and the officers threatened to shoot it if it did not stop barking.
Both Hagans were arrested, charged with resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child, and were taken to the county jail. Neither was told they were under arrest or read their Miranda rights.
The Hagans’ three children, who had witnessed their parents being assaulted by the police, were taken into protective custody by CPS, and were returned to their home nine days later. However, the Hagans did not regain legal custody for five months, during which time they had to report to the social worker whenever seeking medical care for the children.
The Circuit Court in Nodaway County granted a motion to suppress, which tossed out all the evidence against the Hagans that was obtained during the warrantless entry into their home, and the prosecution against them was dropped. In reaching his ruling, Nodaway County Judge Edward M. Manring found that the officers had entered the Hagan home without a warrant, but “the State has not offered sufficient, if indeed any, evidence of an exception that would indicate a warrantless entry.”
Judge Manring also noted that, viewing the facts of the case in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the condition of the Hagan home was unchanged from the social worker’s first visit, and it was “not plausible to believe the condition of the home would change or that the risk to any child in the residence would be any greater during the delay necessary to obtain a warrant.” The judge continued, that the court was unwilling “to sanction warrantless entry into a private residence by pepper spray and taser.”
The Hagans’ lawsuit brings claims for unlawful search and seizure as violations of their Fourth Amendment rights, excessive force under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, a violation of the Hagan family’s right to integrity and privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
James Manson, an attorney with the HSDLA, the firm that is representing the Hagans, said that law enforcement officers needed to be reminded that “the rules apply to them, too,” and described the case as proof that people need to be “vigilant” and “stand up for our rights.”
Breitbart Texas contributor and legal analyst Lana Shadwick, who has served Texas as a family court judge and CPS attorney, said that Fourth Amendment violations can give rise to a cause of action against the police. “The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from unlawful searches and seizures,” said Shadwick. “When a citizen’s rights are violated, federal law provides for a cause of action against any person, who is acting under color of law like a peace officer, or a child protective services worker, who violates the rights of a citizen. Improper governmental action against families who chose to home school their children has been the subject of unlawful action before. Governmental entities and legislators must ensure that these families’ rights are not violated where there is no issue of abuse or neglect of a child.”
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