You have been indicated for child abuse from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). You want to appeal but you recall from TV that criminal defendants usually don’t take the stand. You are afraid you could say the wrong thing out of sheer anxiety and confusion.

Do you have to testify before the DCFS? Under certain circumstances, the hearing officer could compel you.

Under DCFS rules, the agency has the burden of showing by a preponderance of evidence that you are guilty of the offense charged by a preponderance of the evidence. (This is a dramatically lighter burden than the one used in criminal cases, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”) In all cases, a hearing officer—-there is no right to a jury–will judge whether DCFS has met its burden of proof against you.

At the hearing, DCFS may call you to testify on the record. Your attorney may object, but there is a good chance the testimony will come in regardless. Testifying, however, can be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you might inadvertently corroborate some of the evidence against you. But, you might also cast doubt on other aspects of the case. For example, are you able to offer an alternate explanation for any marks on the victim’s body? Can you explain any apparent inconsistencies in your statement to DCFS? Do you have an alibi? How did DCFS learn about the allegations? Through a vengeful ex-paramour? An experienced defense attorney can be critical in preparing you to testify.

If you have questions about a DCFS matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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