October 09, 2023
A false allegation of child abuse or neglect is more than hurtful. It’s humiliating. It’s debilitating. It’s dehumanizing. And, worst of all, it puts you at risk of losing your precious child. It’s only natural that you’d be afraid and angry once DHS or CPS contacts you. But, keep in mind that Oklahoma law makes it a misdemeanor crime for a person who reasonably does suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring and fails to report it. This is just one of the reasons why defending yourself against a DHS report and proving that it’s false might be an uphill battle.
To win in court, you must prove that the caller knew the allegation was false at the time of the report—not that the report itself is false. From the caller’s perspective, there might be a legitimate reason to have made the report. For example, the caller could’ve reasonably believed that any bruises were from abuse, not a simple accident.
False reporting is a misdemeanor crime. Some ways by which you can prove the allegation was knowingly false at the time it was reported can include facts like:
Oklahoma law defines child abuse as either conducting, permitting, or failing to prevent harmful acts from occurring to your child. If you should have reasonably known your child was at risk of abuse, neglect, sexual harm, exposure to illegal drugs, or exploitation, and you did nothing to stop it, the state can charge you with the same crimes as the actual perpetrator. Being an enabler to any of these crimes can result in you being convicted of a felony and facing life imprisonment. This is why it’s so important that you get as much evidence as you possibly can to prove your innocence.
Witnesses—In most cases, there are witnesses. You’ll want as many witnesses as possible to speak favorably on your behalf. Suppose that your child was injured on the playground. This injury could’ve resulted in bruising, stitches, or bleeding. Favorable witnesses could be teachers or other students who saw the real cause of your child’s injury.
Doctor Visits—Doctors are trusted experts in their field. They’re usually able to accurately report whether blunt force, a sharp object, or something else caused the injury. Courts permit them to give their expert opinion on the suspected cause of injury. For example, the false DHS report might say that you were seen hitting your child with a wooden bat. A doctor’s report, which states the injuries simply don’t agree with such an outlandish allegation, will be given more weight and credibility than an opinion of someone who didn’t see what happened.
Character History—Your reputation is always important. Naturally, you can expect a DHS or CPS agent to interview your neighbors, coworkers, and possibly your friends to ask about your overall reputation. What do they think of you as a parent? Does your child seem to be happy, well-nourished, and thriving? Do you and your child seem close? Questions such as these will give an agent an idea of whether child abuse or neglect appears to be within your character.
In such matters, time is of the essence, and it’s not necessarily on your side. Your child could be taken away from you. You might be arrested. Even just a few days in jail can have severe consequences to your job security and your child’s wellbeing. As frustrated as you might feel, don’t act rashly. Contact knowledgeable attorneys first. Inner Vision Legal has meaningfully helped clients in all aspects of family law matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, and more. Call Inner Vision Legal today at (405) 724-2525 or contact us online for a consultation. We know the law, and we’re experienced in resolving false reporting cases.