Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Removal
What is the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI)?
The Child Abuse Central Index, or CACI, is a confidential Department of Justice (DOJ) data base that lists information on persons alleged to have committed child abuse and/or severe child neglect.
The CACI is used by law enforcement, family law and criminal court judges, welfare agencies, child care providers, adoption agencies, professional licensing boards, military, authorized volunteer organizations, and prospective authorized employers to make those entities aware of a CACI listed person’s potential danger to children.
Only persons and agencies authorized by law may access the CACI database.
CACI information: The CACI information includes the name and description of both alleged suspect and alleged victim, case number (criminal court, juvenile dependency court, or Child Protection Service (CPS) case number), type of allegations investigated, and whether or not the allegations were substantiated, inconclusive, or unfounded (see definitions below).
Unless successfully contested at a CACI grievance hearing, a suspect listed on the CACI will remain listed until his or her hundredth birthday. A victim may have his or her name removed from the CACI at age eighteen.
Definitions: For purposes of the CACI, the term child refers to a minor child under the age of eighteen. The term abuse means sexual abuse, unreasonable mental abuse, and/or unreasonable physical abuse. The term severe neglect means the unreasonable failure to protect or provide for a child to a degree that causes harm to that child or puts that child in danger of harm, also known as willful child endangerment.
Negative Impact of CACI Name Listing
Consequences of being listed on the CACI include: Loss of security clearance in a profession or military, loss of employment (especially in the fields of education, law enforcement, military, health care, and child care), possible loss of the right to adopt a child, negative reputation, and more.
How to find out if you are listed in the CACI
To learn whether or not your name is listed on the CACI, a person may send a notarized written request to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The person requesting the information should include his or her name, current and former California addresses, birth date, social security number and/or a California identification number. The notarized request should be signed under penalty of perjury and should declare that the person requesting the information (the declarant) is requesting only the information that relates to his or her CACI listing, if any. The request should be sent to:
Department of Justice
Bureau of Criminal Information & Analysis
Child Abuse Central Index
P.O. Box 903387
Sacramento, CA 94203-3879
Note: A person may request information pertaining to his or her CACI listing, if any, so that he or she may determine the accuracy of the information listed. However, without legal authorization, a person may not request another person's CACI listing information, if any.
Why am I listed in the CACI?
If your name is listed in CACI it is because either you were found guilty of child abuse or severe child neglect in criminal or juvenile dependency court, or because Child Protective Services (CPS) investigated a child abuse or severe child neglect allegation against you and concluded that the allegation is substantiated.
Note: A person may be listed in CACI regardless of whether or not a criminal court, or a juvenile dependency court, took action against the CACI listed person for the same alleged conduct that lead to CPS’ decision to substantiate a claim against the listed person.
For example, if CPS declares that an allegation of child abuse is true (substantiated). The person that CPS suspects committed the alleged child abuse may be listed in CACI even if the criminal court, the family law court, and/or the juvenile dependency court take no action against the CACI listed person for the underling offense.
What does substantiated CPS report mean?
When a CPS investigator completes his or her report on a child abuse, or severe child neglect allegation, that CPS investigator will report to the DOJ whether that allegation is unfounded, substantiated, or inconclusive.
Unfounded CPS report: An unfounded report means that CPS determined that the child abuse or severe child neglect allegation is false, improbable, or does not legally constitute child abuse or severe child neglect by law.
Substantiated CPS report: A substantiated report means that CPS found, that more likely than not, the allegation of child abuse or severe child neglect, is true.
Inconclusive CPS report: An inconclusive report means that CPS determined that the allegations were neither unfounded, nor substantiated.
If CPS concludes that an allegation of child abuse or severe child neglect is substantiated then CPS will refer the substantiated report to the criminal court, the juvenile dependency court, and/or to the DOJ for listing on the CACI.
Note: A person who is not the primary abuser of a child may nevertheless be found criminally guilty and/or civilly liable for child abuse, child neglect, and/or willful child endangerment if that person had a duty to protect the child and knowingly allowed another person to abuse or neglect that child.
For example, if one parent uses unreasonable corporal punishment against her child, and the child’s other parent knows that unreasonable corporal punishment is being used against the child, then the parent who did not use corporal punishment against the child may nevertheless be found criminally guilty and/or civilly liable for child abuse and/or child neglect and that person may be listed in the CACI if the criminal court, family law court, juvenile dependency court, or CPS finds that the allegation of child abuse, child neglect, and/or willful child endangerment is substantiated (true).
How to Remove Your Name from CACI
A persons listed in the CACI as a victim of child abuse or severe child neglect may have his or her name removed from the CACI after his or her eighteenth birthday. A person listed in the CACI as a suspect, who was a minor at the time of his or her CACI listing, may have his or her name removed ten years after his or her name was listed in the CACI. For persons listed on the CACI as an adult, a CACI grievance hearing may be requested wherein the CACI listed person may request removal of his or her name from the CACI.
The CACI grievance hearing
The government agency that referred a person’s name for CACI listing (usually CPS) will send that person a letter that informs him or her that he or she has a right to dispute his or her CACI name listing at a CACI grievance hearing. The person has thirty (30) days from the date listed on the letter in which to request a grievance hearing. Failure to timely respond to the letter will act as a waiver of that person’s right to the CACI grievance hearing.
Included in the letter are required response forms and information on the CACI and the grievance hearing procedures. A person has a right to be represented by an attorney at the grievance hearing. Keep in mind that the thirty day (30) notice requirement is subject to change.
Note: If you have a current criminal or juvenile dependency court case pending you will not receive notice of your right to a grievance hearing until the criminal or juvenile dependency court case has resolved. Nevertheless, you should contact a lawyer to determine whether you should request a grievance hearing within thirty (30) days of being formally charged with any child abuse or severe child neglect crime.
Remember, the thirty (30) day notice requirement is subject to change. If you are charged with a crime involving a child, or have received notice from either the juvenile dependency court, or the family law court, that a petition for child removal or domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) has been filed against you, you should contact a family law lawyer without delay.
Note: With some limitations, if your name was placed on the CACI prior to March, 2008, you may be entitled to a grievance hearing even if more than thirty (30) days has passed since your CACI name listing.
What happens at the CACI hearing?
The grievance hearing is conducted by an administrative hearing officer who serves as the judge and jury. The hearing officer will receive and consider all legally admitted evidence from the referring agency (usually CPS) and the accused (Petitioner or Respondent).
Among other rights, a person has the right to present evidence in his or her favor (defense), a right to cross examine adverse witnesses, and a right to have an attorney represent the accused. The hearing officer will make a decision as to whether or not the accused person’s name should remain listed on the CACI (as substantiated allegations) or removed from the CACI (as unfounded or inconclusive allegations).
Note: Attorneys are not provided at no cost for indigent persons in CACI hearings. The right to an attorney, even if a suspect/defendant cannot afford an attorney, only applies in criminal cases. Since a CACI listing by itself does not lead to the loss of liberty (jail, prison, work release, etc.) the accused does not have a right to an attorney at a CACI grievance hearing.
Appeal of the grievance hearing officer’s decision
To appeal a CACI grievance hearing decision the petitioner must file a writ of mandate in superior court. A writ of mandate is a review of the decision made by the grievance hearing officer in light of the evidence received and the procedural fairness implemented. A writ of mandate is not a new grievance hearing and no new evidence is presented to the superior court.
Defense at grievance hearings
Warning: The alleged facts included in a CPS referral to the DOJ for CACI name inclusion often constitute a criminal offense.
For example, the allegations of willful child endangerment, contributing to a minor’s delinquency, and lewd acts, are all common allegations in CPS reports that also serve as the basis for criminal charges, domestic violence restraining orders (DVRO) in family law court, and juvenile dependency court petitions for removal of a child from the child’s parent or guardian.
Generally speaking, a person under investigation for child abuse or severe child neglect should respectfully decline cooperation with CPS and/or law enforcement, raise his or her right to remain silent, and seek the advice of a competent criminal defense attorney, CPS defense attorneys, and/or a family law attorney without delay.
Common CPS defense issues include:
Witness issues: Witness bias or prejudice, witness memory problems (especially for young children), witness trustworthiness (criminal history, reputation for dishonesty, prior false allegations, motive to fabricate, etc.), statement contamination (adopted, commingled, suggested, and/or inconsistent statements), Manchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) disorder, suggestibility of child witness(es), presentation of defense character witnesses, cross-examination of source and cause of injury expert testimony, and more.
Improper interrogation issues: Improper interview protocols implemented (leading, compound, argumentative, or repeated questions used to navigate responses and/or emotionally tax witnesses [very common]), coercing confessions and/or statements, use of duress or threats in questioning, misrepresenting facts and/or use of aggravation/mitigation technique by interviewer to overcome witness’ will to tell the truth (common in law enforcement interrogations), CPS investigator projecting personal definitions to otherwise ambiguous legal definitions of child abuse, severe neglect, failure to act, etc.
Legal issues: Problems with legal foundation, relevance, privilege, hearsay, etc., use of illegal evidence (unauthorized recordings, warrantless searches and seizures), lack of certifications by lab technicians on scientific evidence, improper handling, processing, and/or preserving of evidence.
Note: Without a court order, no unauthorized recording of a persons’ voice may be used in any court (some limited exception apply) (PC 632).
Sloppy investigations: Failure to interview defense-friendly witnesses, failure to preserve evidence from loss or contamination (especially scientific evidence such as DNA, touch DNA, hair fibers, seminal fluid, blood (serology), fingerprints, and more), failure to investigate alternative source of injury, confirmation bias directed investigation, (goal oriented interviewers), and more.
Failure to meet the department's burden: The administrative agency charged with proving that a person should be listed on the CACI must show, by a preponderance of evidence, that the allegation(s) are true. This means that the agency (department) must prove, that more likely than not, the allegation is true. In some cases, the department cannot meet this burden of proof. Essentially, when the department cannot meet their burden of proof, it means that there is insufficient evidence to find that the allegation(s) is true. This defense is incorporated into every other defense listed above; however, this defense at CACI hearings tends to be at the forefront in cases where the Respondent/Defendant is not the principle suspect of child abuse or child neglect.
For example, if mom is accused of using unreasonable corporal punishment against her child, and dad is accused of allowing mom to use unreasonable corporal punishment against their child, then dad is not the principle suspect of child abuse; he is essentially an aider and abettor of child abuse because he is alleged to have failed to act to protect his child from his child's mom. In this situation, dad is more likely to focus on the department's insufficient evidence necessary to prove that he knew mom was using unreasonable corporal injury against their child.
Important: Collecting, preserving, and producing evidence for use in any CACI grievance hearing, or any other court for that matter, should be accomplished with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who not only understands the relevance and limitations of the evidence, but who is also not likely to collect and preserve that evidence in such a way that the respondent (defendant) may be accused of violating a criminal protective order or otherwise be accused of intimidating a witness (PC 136.1).
For more information on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), or how to remove your name from the CACI, contact our experienced and aggressive attorneys for a free consultation today. Our lawyers have successfully handled thousands of cases; our attorneys handle family law cases, including family law, CACI defense, criminal defense, and juvenile dependency defense. We also have in-house immigration lawyers for non-US citizens and we have experience with administrative hearings which may be necessary to defend your professional license when you are accused of a crime. Call today!
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