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Donna K DeVane

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When Fear Motivates Law
by Donna K DeVane   

Last edited: Monday, August 26, 2002
Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

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When Fear Motivates Laws

Where is the fine line again?

Each of us has the right to be safe and protected within our own homes. We each have the right to live our life in a manner which is pleasing to us, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. Problem is where is the fine line between my right and your right to live as we both see fit and each of us to be safe?

It’s a marsh of confusion legally. I have the right to live in my home, to work a job of my choice, to give birth to and parent my children as I see fit.. as long as someone doesn’t complain.

People have the right to live where they like, as long as the public is informed about whom is moving in the neighborhood.

People accused of a crime have the right to a fair and just trial, as long as they can afford the very high price of justice.

Each of us has the right to our opinion and personal belief system, but should one group’s be made into law and enforced on the rest of the nation?

This is becoming more of a problem than we anticipated when we began passing “protective” laws in this country. Each of us agrees that children have the same right to be free of abuse, to live peacefully and have their basic needs met. The problem comes about when a phone call is made accusing parents of not raising their children according to the standards of someone else.

Sometimes the accusation comes from an angry neighbor, teacher, family member or even a stranger who doesn’t approve how you spoke to your child in public.

Due to Child Protection Laws, if you are accused of child abuse you have a “very long row to hoe”, as my Grandmother says. It is very difficult to defend yourself against something you didn’t do when there is not physical evidence to dispute. Most often the Child Protection Service worker does not cooperate with the accused family. You are not given the information they gather against and use against you in family court.

Since most family courts do not abide by the same rules in criminal court, your family can be interfered with for long months, even years. Your children can be removed from your home “in the best interest of the child”. This best interest is often no more than a Guardian Ad Litem or social worker thinking that perhaps you have, could or would in some way, at some time abuse your child.

Our very laws that we have passed to protect children from abuse have set them and their families up for abuse. When an agent of the government thinks he or she can enter a private home, inspect children and the home, remove children into “protective” custody simply because of a phone call, folks we have a very serious problem.

Most families don’t have the funds to finance a fight with family court. The battle is often lengthy and costly. Add in the cost of therapy, days off from work, attorney, transportation, and if the system has custody of your “in need of care” child, you will most likely pay child support to the state for taking and keeping your child away from you.

If the “system” does indeed get your child into it’s care, hold your breath and pray. All it takes is one little thing the child says and you could be facing child sex abuse charges in criminal court.

Here the legal fees really begin to add up. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Don't expect to see him or her until the morning of court though.
Now that the “system” has its hands around your throat you begin to realize how easy it is to get convictions in this county.
How does an adult who has never touched a child sexually defend himself against this charge? The case against you is based most likely on a social worker or counselor who testifies to the court what the child “disclosed” in session. Many are in prison now due to having bathed a child or hugged a child and a case has been made.

How would you defend yourself when it was only your word against a court official that swears to tell the truth of what “your” child, or a neighbor’s child, says you did?

If the case against you is not very strong, you will most likely be offered a “deal”. According to the Justice Department 76% and up of all defendants in this country cop a plea in court. The reasons are many. For the DA, a conviction is a conviction. It’s easier and less time consuming for all. For the defendant who has been jailed, lied about, kept from his home and family, it often appears a fast, easy way to end a big mess.

If you think this you are once again on the road to despair. If you plead guilty to sexual child abuse, even if you don’t serve time in prison, your name goes on the “sex offender registry”. For 25 years or longer everywhere you go a flyer goes with you. Your neighbors are warned of your moving in and if you think you can go back to living a normal life you are terribly wrong.
Most states have living restrictions built into their sex offender community notification laws. These restrictions state that unless you are the ‘biological” parent of a minor child, it is a felony to live in the house with anyone under 18 years of age.
That means being a step-parent or having your grandchildren live with you is now illegal and a felony charge.. more time in prison.

We are now at a turning point in our story. Many “sex offenders” took deals and were sentenced prior to these new notification laws. Most states have passed an act that although they are not under the law simply because they have an old conviction, once they move they fall up under all the law. What this means is, someone who was accused, pled guilty, served a probation sentence is now at risk of breaking the law simply by living in the home with a minor child.

Alabama has a disclaimer on their version that states that offenders convicted prior to the implementation of this law are exempt from community notification and living restrictions.
Who tells the law enforcement this part of the law exists? Who tells the offenders that moving will place them in jeopardy of a felony charge?

While abuse of any person is a horrible thing and worthy of justice, we have gone too far in our search for safety and prevention. We have opened a “Pandora’s box” which will come to haunt families throughout this nation for years to come.
When innocent people can be convicted of crimes without any evidence, or with construe d evidence by a DA or power hungry investigator, or vindictive social worker, or an angry child; we need to step back and take a long look at our present laws.
When parents arguing in the presence of their children can led to being listed on the child abuse registry for child abuse, when step-children, school children and neighbor children can so easily become the center of attention and have at their disposal a very real means of getting even with adults, we need to take another look at our laws.

When our laws restrict or deny due process, civil and constitutionally guaranteed rights are dismissed due to a prior conviction, when justice cost more than the average American can afford, when fear rules the nation rather than logic and common sense….. we need to step back and take another look at our laws.

If it is all right to deny these rights to any one person in this nation, it is a short distance to a government body who denies these rights to all who disagree with the system.
Let us be fair in our system of justice, let us be complete in our investigations, and let us see each person as worthy of respect and fairness. Let us put aside the running ahead of our fears and making laws that can so negatively affect so many of our citizens.

Where is that fine line between my rights, your rights and the power of the government to say we have no rights??? I think it is fading away behind a curtain of fear and power hungry politicians.

Americans, we need to wake up and take a long look at our justice system.

Donna Devane

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