The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to render a decision on whether law enforcement officers or social workers need to obtain a warrant in order to interview a child at school about sexual abuse claims.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Camreta v. Greene, an Oregon case centering on a whether a child protective services caseworker and deputy sheriff violated the Fourth Amendment by interrogating a child who alleged sexual abuse without a warrant, exigent circumstances or parental consent. The interrogation lasted two hours and took place in a private office at the child's school.
In Camreta, the state of Oregon received a report that a 9-year-old girl was being abused by her father at home. Deschutes County (Ore.) Sheriff's Deputy James Alford and caseworker Bob Camreta interviewed the child at her school.
The child's mother was not informed of the interview and didn't consent to it. No warrant or other court order was obtained prior to the interview. Based on the interview and other information Camreta had gathered, he believed that the child's father had sexually abused the child.
The father was indicted on six counts of felony sexual assault of the child and the other daughter. The state eventually obtained custody of the two children and interviewed and examined them while in custody. The children's father later went to trial on charges of sexual abuse, but the jury did not reach a verdict. Instead of a retrial, the father accepted a plea.
At the Ninth Curcuit court, Camreta and Alford argued that even if they violated the Greene's constitutional rights by interviewing the child in school without a warrant, they are entitled to qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit held that Camreta and Alford violated the constitutional rights of Green and the girls by conducting the investigation without a warrant, a court order, exigent circumstances, or parental consent.
The Ninth Circuit also ruled that Camreta and Alford can't be held liable in damages because they have qualified immunity. Oral argument in the Supreme Court chambers is expected to take place early next year.