Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York child abuse case requiring the court to determine if an interview conducted by a child protective services caseworker was in violation of the defendant’s right to counsel. Ultimately, the court determined that the interview was indeed a violation of the defendant’s right to counsel and ordered the suppression of all statements obtained from the interview.
Generally, when someone is under investigation for a crime, they have the right to have an attorney present when they are questioned. However, the law surrounding this area is quite nuanced, and there is much litigation over exactly when someone is under investigation and what constitutes “questioning.”
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, a Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworker interviewed the defendant while he was in custody for criminal charges. At the time, the caseworker had been working on a task force with law enforcement agencies where she received training on how to interview individuals who are accused of committing sexual offenses. The caseworker was aware that the defendant was being represented by counsel for his criminal matter, but no counsel was present during this interview. During the interview, the defendant admitted to having sexual contact with the victim. The prosecution intended to use this statement at the defendant’s trial.