When a criminal defendant is accused of harming a child, they have to deal with several entities: the police, the prosecutor, the judge, and even Child Protective Services (CPS). When a child is hurt, our instincts are to protect the youth, but what happens when the child is lying or being taught to create a story. Custody battles, mental health concerns, and a lack of evidence often come into the equation of these criminal prosecutions. One entity often overlooked is the role that Child Protective Services can play in criminal prosecution. To learn more about this subject, we spoke to several of the top attorneys in the state of Michigan.
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/). McManus is known for outside-of-the-box motions on this topic. McManus said, “Many times a criminal defendant will feel relaxed with a CPS Agent without realizing that the entity is a government agency. This can make a difficult situation nearly impossible if not handled properly.”
Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/jennifer-kelley.html). She has become one of the top divorce lawyers in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Kelley said, “In many ways, a divorce or a custody matter becomes more heated than a criminal case. More often than you would expect, a parent will utilize the child as a form of revenge. When this happens, the attorney needs to be on top of their game.”
Nancy Eaton-Gordon of “Jackson Eaton-Gordon and Associates” and is one of the top attorneys in Lenawee County, Michigan. (https://jackson-eaton-gordon-associates.com/). Eaton Gordon stated, “As someone that practices criminal law and family law, we find that CPS can provide testimonial evidence in a criminal prosecution that may have no merit but can still lead to additional charges. Cooperation with CPS is helpful in many regards, but it is not a one size fits all proposition.”
Joseph Brugnoli is a top criminal defense attorney in Kent County, Michigan. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-brugnoli-1954a326/). Brugnoli is a former police offer and military veteran. Brugnoli stated, “CPS plays a vital role in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, objectivity can be lost in the investigation process. Nobody should ever speak to a government agency without counsel present. An innocent person can become a suspect with a mere misinterpretation.”
Christian Wiesenberg is the owner of “Fidelis Law, PLLC” and the Executive Director of the “Adolescent Redemption Project.” (https://www.adolescentredemptionproject.org/board-of-directors/). Wiesenberg is a top litigator in Livingston County, Michigan. When asked about the CPS aspect, Wiesenberg told the author, “At the Adolescent Redemption Project, we see many young people that end up in the Michigan Department of Corrections due to allegations added by CPS. We see another layer of the law we need to advocate against when necessary.”
Ashlee Duplessis is a top criminal defense lawyer in Wayne County, Michigan, and the founder of Duplessis Law. (https://detroitlegaldefense.com/). Duplessis provided commentary when she stated, “When we have a CPS and criminal case running simultaneously, we have to protect our clients on a multitude of levels. We have had a lot of success getting people off of the CPS Registry, but the lawyer will often have to wear a multitude of hats in these cases.”
Megan Mast is an associate attorney for Tannis-Schultz in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganamast/). Mast is a rising star in criminal law and has established herself during her time in Ingham and Kent County, Michigan. Mast stated, “We see a lot of twists to these cases on social media. I often instruct my clients to keep their mouths shut when speaking to police and CPS agents, but I also demand a gag order on social media. A simple post on Facebook can lead to criminal charges or a CPS Registry. That will not happen in my watch.”
William Amadeo is a Partner at McManus and Amadeo and is arguably the top criminal defense lawyer in Michigan. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/bill-amadeo-5031a925/). Amadeo provided insight when he said, “CPS has a tough job. When you get into that field, you enter intending to protect children, and I respect the hell out of that. Unfortunately, you have some rogue agents that show up at your client’s house after hours after they have invoked their right to counsel. When you have someone like that, they not only are violating the constitution, they are helping my defense. I encourage bad agents to keep pulling stunts such as that so that I can use it against them at trial.”
While this topic is one of great debate, there is no question that a CPS Agent has a level of power. With that power, they can spread their sphere of protection or work to create false narratives. One thing that is not up for debate is that the client should never speak to a CPS Agent without a lawyer.