What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Alabama
A little over a week ago a DHR case worker came to my house due to accusations against me and my husband specifically stating that I was using PCP and heroin and that my husband was doing cocaine and that there was domestic violence in my house hold. I of course passed a drug test and proved that my husband and I had been separated for a long time now so there was no domestic violence going on between us. The DHR case worker told me that he could not tell me who made the accusations because he did not know, but if I got a lawyer I could find out. My question is that since the allegation was not one to the effect of some one believed that I was doing drugs, it was specifically stated as the two drugs listed above, would I have a case on defamation, or slander? I am not looking for a lawsuit for a bunch of money, but I would like for whoever did this to be punished in one way or another. They really did cause disruption to my life because it has upsest me very much. I have never even seen the drugs I was accused of doing much less done them so I just wanted a little advice.
I am afraid that there is (generally) little you can legally do about reports made to DHR, to CPS, or to the police.
A reporter of crimes or suspected crimes is granted an immunity (called a "privilege") from defamation prosecution. This immunity is designed to encourage people to report to the proper authorities what they hear, see or suspect. This immunity relieves a reporter of any fear he might otherwise have of a lawsuit resulting from his report, if the report later turns out to be false.
The reports that are made are not considered true statements of fact. Everything that is reported must be investigated to determine if what was reported is true or false.
Yes, investigations can disrupt a life, and being investigated for a crime you did not commit is embarrassing, but these investigations do work to prevent crimes or to stop crimes far more often than they work as a malicious tool of harassment by a reporter.
Despite this immunity that is granted to reporters, however, there is one legal option available to those who have been erroneously reported to authorities. It is a difficult action to pursue with any chance of success.
The privilege that grants immunity to reporters of crimes (suspected or actual) is not an absolute privilege. An absolute privilege is one that immunizes a person from a defamation suit no matter how wrongful their action might be and no matter how improper their motive might be. In other words, under some circumstances and in some situations (such as during a court proceeding), a person will be protected from a defamation action no matter what they say and no matter what their reasons are for saying it.
What protects a person who makes a report to authorities is, on the other hand, a qualified or conditional privilege. If this privilege is found to have been abused, and a report is made with proven improper purpose, the immunity can be lost.
Proof of improper purpose is hard to obtain - especially when the name of a reporter is kept confidential (without a court order). Even if the name of the reporter is disclosed (through a court order), it would need to be proved that the reporter who made the report did so with a deliberate intent, and without any justification or excuse, to cause harm.
Intent goes to the state of mind that accompanies any act. Motive is what makes someone consider an act, but intent is the mental determination to actually do it. It is extremely difficult to prove improper purpose and intent to do harm and, therefore, any legal action attempted against any reporter of a crime or suspected crime will almost always fail.
You could consult with an attorney in Alabama, and go over with this attorney all of the facts of your situation. The attorney can better tell you if there is anything you can legally do to "punish" the person who falsely reported drug use and domestic violence in your family. I suspect there isn't.
Thank you for the response. I knew that there were certain protection for people who reported suspected activities that may interfere with the well being of a child, but I was not sure about this since the person was so specific. I am 100% sure that it has to be a person who is just trying to stir up problems, but there are 2 or 3 people who it could be and I do not want to accuse the wrong person. What is so bad is that anyone who really knows me knows that I have never done drugs, but there are many other people who could take this as a reason to believe that I do if it were to ever get out that I was investigated. I really would just like for a judge to make the person wear a sign in front of the DHR office saying that they lied to DHR like Wal Mart used to make the people caught stealing do!!!
Again, Thanks for the advice.
Last edited by bmwsbabe23; 11-19-2009 at 10:08 AM.
Reason: misspelled word
By the way, there are a few judges who agree with you that sign-wearing can be an effective form of punishment. Sign-wearing has been ordered for various offenses by several different judges in several different cities throughout the country. A judge in Ohio, for instance, has brightly-colored "criminal" tee-shirts (ie. tee-shirts that proclaim, for instance: "I am a thief) and some offenders are ordered by this judge to wear these tee-shirts while they perform their court-ordered community service.
Public humiliation can sometimes be a wonderful thing.
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