Do You Need a CACI Attorney in California?
A child abuse conviction in California can change your life completely. Upon sentencing, you will be placed on the Child Abuse Central Index for the remainder of your life. This can greatly affect your reputation and your job, especially if you are a teacher or caregiver. However, a skilled CACI attorney may be able to have your name removed from the registry. If you have been charged with child abuse, you need to hire an experienced CACI lawyer.
With help from The Law Offices of Visco & Wohl, LLP, you may be able to get your name removed and get your life back. Read more below or simply pick up the phone and call us at (909) 689-4292 for free, immediate advice from an experienced attorney.
What is the CACI?
The California Department of Justice (CDOJ) administers the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), a statewide database used by law enforcement and agencies that provide children’s services. The purpose of CACI is to aid in the investigation and prevention of child abuse and neglect and to protect minors from further abuse.
CACI was created in 1965 and has since been incorporated under sections 11164-11174.3 of the California Penal Code following the passage of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). 1 CANRA is a body of laws that was passed in 1980 to provide definitions and procedures for mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect.
When an individual is suspected of child abuse, a county agency initiates an investigation. If the allegations of child abuse or severe neglect are substantiated, a report is submitted to the CDOJ which then enters the person’s information into CACI. Reports may include allegations of severe neglect as well as serious physical, mental, emotional, and/or sexual abuse of a child.
The CACI is made available to employers and agencies providing placement of children and other child-related services. Such entities include foster homes, adoption agencies, licensed child care homes and centers, child welfare agencies, law enforcement, and schools. Besides being denied employment and volunteer opportunities, people placed on the CACI may also experience custody issues involving their own children.
Certain professionals known as “mandatory reporters” are obligated by law to report incidents of suspect or actual child abuse or neglect. Failure to do so, or attempting to prevent someone else from making a required report is a misdemeanor and is subject to criminal prosecution.
Individuals listed on CACI are entitled by law to petition for removal of their names by requesting what is known as a grievance hearing.
Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) – Reportable Information
CACI is available to law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to aid in investigation and prosecution of child abuse. The CACI is also used by certain social welfare agencies to screen candidates for licensing or employment in several fields including child and foster care.
The information is also used in making placement decisions regarding adoption and foster homes. The information in the CACI is private and is not generally available to the public.
Child Abuse or Neglect Defined
“Child abuse or neglect” is defined under Penal Code section 11165.6, and includes:
- Physical injury or death inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person; 2
- Sexual abuse, either:
- Sexual assault, which generally includes any type of sexual activity or molestation perpetrated against or involving a minor, whether or not by force, fear or threat of immediate or future harm; or
- Sexual exploitation, which includes involving a minor in producing child pornography or engaging in prostitution;
- Neglect, defined as the “negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child’s health or welfare”;
- Willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child; and
Unlawful bodily punishment or injury, defined as willful infliction upon a child of cruel or inhumane treatment resulting in a traumatic condition.
For neglect to be reportable and investigated, it must be severe rather than general. “Severe neglect” means the negligent failure to protect the child from severe malnutrition or willfully causing the child’s health to be endangered, such as intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. “General neglect” is the negligent failure of a caregiver to provide the child adequate basic necessities where no physical injury to the child has occurred.
“Abuse or neglect” does not include a mutual altercation between minors. Additionally, child abuse or neglect does not include an injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a police officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.
“Unlawful corporal punishment” does not include force reasonable and necessary used by a school employee to break up a disturbance threatening personal injury or property damage, for purposes of self-defense, or for purposes of obtaining dangerous weapons or objects under a student’s control.
Classification of Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect
Pursuant to Penal Code section 11165.12, there are three classifications of reports described under CANRA used during an investigation of alleged child abuse or neglect:
- Substantiated; and
An “unfounded report” means a report that is determined by the investigator who conducted the investigation to be false, to be inherently improbable, to involve an accidental injury, or not to constitute child abuse or neglect.
A “substantiated” report means a report that is determined by the investigator who conducted the investigation to constitute child abuse or neglect.
An “inconclusive” report means a report which is determined by the investigator, who conducted the investigation not to be unfounded, but in which the findings are inconclusive and there is insufficient evidence to determine whether child abuse or neglect has occurred.
The investigator’s report is based upon evidence that makes it more likely than not that child abuse or neglect, as defined, occurred. This is a standard of proof known as “preponderance of the evidence” and it is a much lower standard than what is required in a criminal proceeding.
Information Included on CACI
Reports of child abuse or neglect submitted to the CDOJ must be inputted into the CACI database. Information on file in the Child Abuse Central Index includes:
- Names and personal descriptions of suspects and victims;
- The reporting agency that investigated the incident;
- The name and/or number assigned to the case by the investigating agency;
- Type(s) of abuse investigated; and
- The findings of the investigation if the allegations are substantiated.
Each reporting agency is responsible for the accuracy of the information submitted to CACI. However, mandatory reporters and reporting agencies and their employees are neither criminal nor civilly liable for errors made in a good faith effort to fulfill their legal obligations.
On the other hand, knowingly making a false report and reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of a report is not exempt from criminal or civil liability.
How To Verify if Your Name is Listed on CACI
There are two ways to verify whether your name appears on CACI. One way is to fill out the California Department of Justice Child Abuse Central Index Self Inquiry Request form, sign it before a notary, and mail it to the California Department of Justice.
Alternatively, you may send a notarized letter asking whether your name appears on the CACI. The letter must include the following information:
- Every name and alias you’ve ever used;
- Your date of birth;
- Your social security number, driver’s license number and passport number;
- Your current address; and
- Any previous California addresses.
Length of Victim and Offender Identification on CACI
Individuals listed in the CACI only as victims of child neglect or abuse may petition to have their name removed at 18 years old. This may be done by sending a notarized letter to the California Department of Justice. The letter must contain the victim’s name, date of birth, social security number, and address.
If child abuse and/or severe neglect is substantiated, the individual will remain on CACI until he or she reaches the age of 100. If the allegations are either unfounded or inconclusive, no report can be submitted to or accepted by the CDOJ and a person will not be listed on the CACI.
Minor offenders placed on the list prior to the age of 18 will remain on the CACI for 10 years. If after 10 years there have been no additional incidents of child abuse or severe neglect, the person will be automatically deleted from the database. If, however, there are additional incidents of child abuse or severe neglect, the individual’s name will remain on the CACI as authorized by law.
Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) – Grievance Hearing Process
Have authorities taken your child away and/or required you to register on the CACI?
A grievance hearing is the only other available option to have an individual’s name removed from CACI. When an individual is notified of their placement in CACI, they are also notified of their opportunity to contest their placement through a grievance hearing.
Within five (5) business days of submitting an individual’s name to the California Department of Justice for listing on the CACI, the following forms must be sent to the individual at his or her last known mailing address:
- The Notice of Child Abuse Central Index Listing (form SOC 832). This is the document that explains allegations of child abuse or neglect have been substantiated and the individual will be listed in the CACI;
- Grievance Procedures for Challenging Reference to the CACI (form SOC 833); and
Request for Grievance Hearing (form SOC 834).
If you wish to challenge your referral to the CACI, you may request a grievance hearing as follows:
- You must submit a written and signed request for a grievance hearing by mail, fax or in person;
- The request for grievance must include the facts which you believe provides a basis for reversal of the county’s finding of “substantiated” abuse;
- You must mail your request to the county within thirty (30) calendar days of the date the notice and request for grievance was mailed to you as the suspect of the alleged abuse or serious neglect. Your failure to mail the request for grievance within the prescribed time frame waives your right to a grievance.
You will not be granted a grievance hearing while any court proceedings are pending against you for the underlying allegations that prompted the index listing. In these cases, your initial grievance request will be placed on hold until the court decides your case. If a court decides that the suspected child abuse or severe neglect has occurred, your request for a grievance hearing will be denied.
It is very important that you have an experienced lawyer representing you when a grievance hearing has been requested. Your lawyer will do all of the following on your behalf:
- Receive and review the county’s investigative report of child abuse and/or severe neglect allegations;
- Examine the witnesses and evidence against you; and
Locate and present witnesses and evidence on your behalf.
Both you and the county must disclose all non-confidential records and relevant evidence and provide a list of potential witnesses intended to be called within ten (10) business days prior to the grievance hearing. Failure to disclose evidence and witness lists in advance of the grievance hearing may constitute grounds for objection to consideration of that evidence or witness testimony during the hearing.
A grievance hearing must be set within ten (10) business days of your written request and held not later than sixty (60) calendar days following the county’s receipt of your request, unless otherwise agreed upon by your attorney and the county.
At the hearing, the grievance hearing officer may permit the child allegedly abused or neglected to be present and questioned, provided that his or her participation is voluntary and he or she is capable of providing voluntary consent. However, a hearing officer may prevent the presence or examination of the child for good cause (to protect the child from physical harm or trauma, for example).
The hearing officer will submit his or her report and recommendations to the County Director within thirty (30) calendar days following the conclusion of the grievance hearing. Within ten (10) business days, The County Director will then issue a final decision adopting, rejecting, or modifying the recommended decision.
However, at any time during the grievance process, the county may resolve your matter by changing a finding of substantiated child abuse or neglect to either unfounded or inconclusive, and notifying the Department of Justice of the need to remove your name from CACI.
Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) – Mandatory Reporters
Certain professionals are identified and designated as “mandatory reporters” under CANRA. A mandatory reporter is obligated by law to make and submit a report whenever an incident of child abuse or neglect is suspected or actually occurs.
California law lists dozens of different types of professionals who are considered mandatory reporters under Penal Code section 11165.7, including all of the following:
- A teacher
- An instructional aide
- A teacher’s aide or teacher’s assistant
- An employee of a public school
- An administrative officer or supervisor of child welfare
- An administrator of a public or private day camp
- An administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth organization
- An employee of a county office of education or the State Department of Education
- A licensee, an administrator, or an employee of a licensed community care or child day care facility
- A Head Start program teacher
- A public assistance worker
- An employee of a child care facility such as foster parents, group home staff and staff of residential care facilities
- A social worker, probation officer, or parole officer
- An employee of a school district police or security department
- A district attorney investigator, inspector, or local child support agency caseworker
- A peace officer
- A firefighter, except for volunteer firefighters
- A physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, dental hygienist, optometrist, marriage and family therapist, clinical social worker, or professional clinical counselor
- An emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic
- A psychological assistant
- A marriage and family therapist trainee
- An unlicensed marriage and family therapist intern
- A state or county public health employee
- A coroner
- A medical examiner or other person who performs autopsies
- A commercial film and photographic print or image processor
- A child visitation monitor
- An animal control officer or humane society officer
- A clergy member, including a priest, minister, rabbi, or other religious practitioner, unless the clergy member acquires knowledge or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a “penitential communication” (in other words, during a sacramental confession)
- An employee of any police department or a county sheriff, probation or welfare department
- An alcohol and drug counselor
- A clinical counselor trainee or intern
- An employee or administrator of a public or private postsecondary institution
- An athletic coach, athletic administrator, athletic director or graduate assistant employed by any public or private school
- A commercial computer technician
Mandatory reporters must report actual knowledge and reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect to any city police or county sheriff’s department, county probation department, or the county welfare department. Any of these agencies must accept a report of suspected child abuse or neglect whether offered by a mandated reporter or another person, or referred by another agency.
A mandatory reporter must make an initial report by telephone immediately, or as soon as practical, and follow-up with a written report within 36 hours of receiving information about the actual or suspected incident. The report may be submitted confidentially and cannot be disclosed to the mandatory reporter’s employer without his or her consent. However, reporting the incident to an employer, supervisor, school principal, counselor or any other person is not a substitute for making a mandatory report.
Following an investigation, if allegations against an individual are confirmed, the investigating agency must send the report to the California Department of Justice (CDOJ), which then enters the report into the CACI. An investigating agency is not permitted to forward a report that is not substantiated, nor is the CDOJ permitted to retain any report that is not substantiated.
If you are a mandatory reporter and you fail to report actual or suspected incidences of child abuse or neglect as required, or if you impede the making of a mandatory report, you can be charged with a crime.
Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) – Consequences of Failing to Report
Child services agencies and schools, organizations and businesses subject to a legal duty to report are usually familiar with mandatory reporting requirements and have specific guidelines and procedures in place instructing employees as to their responsibilities when it comes to reporting actual or suspected child abuse or neglect.
However, in the event you are designated a mandatory reporter or a supervisor or administrator of a mandatory reporter pursuant to CANRA and you fail to fulfill your lawful duty to report child abuse or neglect, or if you impede someone else from making a mandatory report, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and prosecuted. Although prosecution for failing to make a mandatory report is rare, it does occur.
If you are convicted, you can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail, fined a maximum of $1,000, or both (Penal Code sections 11166, 11166.01(a)).
Any mandatory reporter who willfully fails to report abuse or severe neglect, or a person who impedes the making of a required report, where that abuse or neglect results in death or great bodily injury, may be punished by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both (Penal Code section 11166.01(b)).
Additionally, because mandatory reporters typically include professionally licensed people, you also face the possibility of disciplinary proceedings brought against you by the state board or agency which provides for your licensure should you fail to make or permit to be made a mandatory report.
A conviction under mandatory reporting laws will almost assuredly lead to suspension or revocation of your license and could seriously damage, if not end, your career.
Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) – FAQs
Our clients have asked the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding their rights and responsibilities regarding the Child Abuse Central Index:
1. Are inconclusive reports of child abuse or neglect included in the CACI?
Up until 2012, both inconclusive and substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect had to be submitted to the California Department of Justice. Inconclusive means there was insufficient evidence to determine one way or the other whether child abuse or neglect had occurred. Substantiated means it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect has occurred.
The Justice Department was then required to list individuals in all of these cases on the CACI. However, grand jury investigations led to court decisions which said it was unfair to include the names of persons based on inconclusive reports, prompting the state legislature to change the law to include only substantiated reports.
2. How long will my name appear on the CACI?
Victims of child abuse and neglect may submit a written request removing their information from the CACI database on and after their 18th birthday. Juvenile offenders listed only once are automatically deleted after 10 years from the date of the incident. Adult offenders are listed until the age of 100.
3. I’ve been identified as a child abuser. Can I contest my listing on the CACI?
Yes. A grievance process is available and you will be informed of these procedures when you are notified of your placement on the list. Generally, you must make a request for a grievance hearing in writing to the county which investigated you within 30 days of learning of your placement or you lose your opportunity to contest your listing on the CACI.
4. What happens at the grievance hearing?
You are under will to examine the county’s evidence and witnesses who testify against you as well as present evidence and testimony in your defense. At the conclusion of the hearing, the grievance hearing officer will make a recommendation to a County Director. The County Director makes the decision to adopt, reject or modify the report made against you.
5. Who must report child abuse or neglect?
Everyone is encouraged to report incidents or suspicions of child abuse or neglect. However, some people have a legal obligation to make a required report. These people are called “mandatory reporters” and include many different professionals, including police officers, social workers, doctors and health care providers, teachers, principals and school employees, coaches, therapists and counselors, emergency medical technicians, and film processing technicians. Priests and other clergy members must also report child abuse or neglect if they learn about it outside of a sacramental confession.
6. What happens if I have a legal obligation to report child abuse and I don’t?
If you are a mandatory reporter and you fail to make a required report of child abuse or neglect, or if you try to prevent someone else from doing so, you may be subject to criminal prosecution. If you are convicted, you could be sent to jail, ordered to pay a fine, or both.
Contact The Law Offices of Visco & Wohl, LLP about CACI
If you or a family member has potentially been listed on the Child Abuse Central Index, there are options available to you to avoid this humiliating and lifelong stigma. There are option, we can help
Call us today at (909) 689-4292 for a free telephone consultation.