The U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony on Tuesday in a nightmarish tale underscoring the devastating effect sex crimes allegations can have on individual’s reputation and livelihood. In Los Angeles County v. Humphries, a California couple seeks to recover damages against L.A. County for the failure to remove their names from a list of known or suspected child abusers after they had been found innocent of any crime.
In Humphries, the accuseds’ 15-year-old daughter stole the family car from her father and mother in California and ran away to Utah, to live with her biological mother and stepfather. The teen told her family in Utah she had been sexually abused for months. The police placed the California parents’ names on the Child Abuse Central Index, a sexual offenders registry. After further investigation, no evidence was found and the parents were declared “factually innocent,” cleared of all charges. However, Los Angeles County failed to remove their names, citing a lack of procedure to do so. Even after receiving a court order to destroy the records, the County kept their names on the list.
The Humphrieses subsequently brought charges against the County, alleging due process violations and asserting the right to recover damages.
The federal appeals court determined that the Humphrieses were entitled to damages. CNN reports, however, that the Supreme Court appeared “split,” questioning whether this is a state or local issue, and how to address the constitutional violation.
Apart from the obviously critical legal arguments, this case illustrates the havoc that can result from the combination of false accusations and overzealous law enforcement officials. The Humphrieses’ lives have been turned upside down, they’ve lost job opportunities, income and had their reputations tarnished – despite a determination of innocence, the damage continues.
If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, despite a lack of evidence, it’s crucial to take the charges seriously and contact an experienced sex crimes attorney at once. For more information, contact Grabel & Associates, a Michigan sex crimes defense firm dedicated to protecting our client’s rights and securing their freedom.