Josh Moore's 11th birthday this year is one that will most likely go down in family history. Shawn Moore, the boy's father, posted a picture on his Facebook wall of his son, decked out in camouflage and grinning from ear to ear, while clutching his brand-new birthday present—a .22 caliber black rifle that looks similar to a military-style assault rifle. To his dismay, Moore found himself under investigation for having children in an unsafe environment. Moore, who lives in Carneys Point, says he bought his son the gun to use on hunting trips, and in the photo, which has gone viral online, Josh appears thrilled with his new gift.
A few days after Moore posted the picture, New Jersey state child welfare investigators, accompanied by four local law enforcement officials, knocked on the family's front door. Moore, who was out at the time, contacted his attorney in New Jersey as soon as his wife called and alerted him that Child Services was at their house. The investigation party waited for Moore to arrive, and when he did, the social workers asked to see the family's guns. When Moore learned that they did not have a warrant to search his property, he refused to open his safe. When asked, he informed the caseworkers that his guns were not registered with the state. New Jersey family attorneys report that the state's laws on gun registration are voluntary.
New Jersey's Department of Children and Family Services did not have a comment on the Moore case. However, Kristine Brown, a spokeswoman for the state child welfare program, said that the program often receives tips about suspected child abuse or welfare violations, and acts accordingly, sending caseworkers out to conduct investigations. She also commented on the heavy police escort that accompanied caseworkers to the Moores' home, saying that caseworkers can ask for a law enforcement presence if they feel that they will be entering a dangerous situation. Law enforcement officials said that the Carneys Point department is investigating all reports of children with guns or access to ammunition, in light of the recent school shootings across the country.
Moore and his New Jersey lawyer say that the action taken by child services and their police escort violated his family's right to privacy and protection in their own home. Moore also claimed that his Second Amendment right to own guns was violated in the subsequent search of his house. Governor Christie has since called for an investigation into the actions of the state welfare agency, saying in a statement that the Attorney General must determine "whether all applicable laws were appropriately followed" in investigating a potentially dangerous situation for a child.
The New Jersey family attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman hope that the investigation into DCFS' methods and their procedures regarding anonymous information will help other parents who are investigated for suspicion of abuse or neglect from hot line tips. If you or your spouse is under investigation from DCFS based on an anonymous tip, your rights may have been violated. Contact an experienced NJ family lawyer today for a consultation.