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Monday, February 28, 2011

Do police need permission to question child-abuse victims?

Do police need a warrant or a parent's permission to question kids who might have been the victims of sexual abuse? The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear arguments Tuesday in an Oregon case involving a girl, age 9 at the time, who was questioned at school by authorities who were investigating her father. The girl, who is now a teenager, says she falsely incriminated her father under pressure.

"Fearing that the school bus would leave without her at dismissal time, the frightened child decided to lie, just to get out of the room," according to that brief.

Child-abuse investigators say they need to be able to question young victims on safe, neutral ground without any pressure from parents, who -- if abuse is happening -- might force the child to lie. The federal government, several states and law-enforcement agencies have filed friend-of-the-court briefs.

The girl and her family are getting support from several groups who worry about an erosion of parents' rights.

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