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Should defendant accept invitation to meet with Iowa DHS to talk about child sex abuse allegations? 

By David Cmelik
Moreover, the invitation to participate may come with the caveat that the target’s silence may influence the outcome of administrative findings. In other words, if the target of an Iowa DHS investigation declines the invitation to participate, all things being equal, the agent may suggest there will be findings of abuse if accusations are left unrefuted. This is the perilous rock and hard place sex abuse investigation targets must navigate. There is no easy answer to the question about whether someone should participate with a DHS investigation. The criminal defense answer is, of course, easy: don’t participate. The less someone says to a DHS agent, the less likelihood that their words will be twisted in a criminal prosecution later. Would-be defendants have a right to remain silent and, from this defense attorney’s perspective, they should use it—even if that comes with the risk that an administrative review will favor a finding of abuse. That might be true anyway and further protests to the contrary might inevitably snare a would-be criminal defendant. DHS representatives have been known to work hand in glove with law enforcement. They have been known sit in with law enforcement officers during forensic interviews. They sometimes sit in on law enforcement interrogations in suspects’ homes as well as at the police station. And they sometimes will call law enforcement to get the ball rolling on a criminal investigation if they believe facts warrant police involvement. I have never known a DHS worker to call a defense attorney to notify them that they will be conducting an interview; moreover, I have never known a DHS worker to tell a parent that it might be a good idea to consult with an attorney before sitting down to talk about an accusation of child sex abuse. There may be anecdotes contrary to that conclusion but I believe they would be the exception not the rule. While defense attorneys consider DHS workers to be an extension of law enforcement, the Court may not. It may not be obvious to the target of an investigation that a DHS worker on a home visit might also become a crucial material witness to a defendant’s admissions in a criminal prosecution. And it is unlikely that a DHS worker will Mirandize a parent. If in doubt, a parent may wish to reschedule to think it over and consult an attorney before agreeing to an interview with a DHS worker if the subject matter is the accusation of child sex abuse in Iowa. Of course, it also stands to reason that hiring an attorney before ever meeting with a law enforcement officer is this author’s recommended course of action. A blog is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or by sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet. 

cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense