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September 10, 2014

COA holds that Family Court may not order drug testing of parent of delinquent juvenile

In In re Dorsey, No. 309269, The Court of Appeals found that a family court violates the Fourth Amendment when it orders a parent to submit to drug testing in connection with juvenile delinquency proceedings, but denied relief to a mother held in contempt for violating such an order on waiver grounds.
 
After multiple delinquency proceedings against a juvenile, the court found that the mother’s substance abuse problems were partly responsible for a lack of supervision, contributing to the juvenile’s problems. The family court eventually ordered the mother to submit to random drug testing.  The juvenile’s guardian ad litem also filed an abuse and neglect proceeding against the mother, and the court required her to submit to drug testing related to that proceeding as well.
 
Later the same year, while still under court order to submit to drug testing, the mother appeared to a testing facility but refused to submit to a test. The juvenile’s probation officer moved for an order directing the appellant to appear and show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court for refusing the test. At the hearing, the appellant argued that she was confused about the drug testing orders, since the abuse and neglect case had closed, and intended to consult her attorney before submitting to testing. The family court held the appellant in criminal contempt of court.
 
On appeal, the mother argued that the family court’s order for drug testing was a violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court of Appeals agreed, noting that under the Fourth Amendment, a drug test is a search because it is an intrusion on bodily privacy. The court found that the parent’s privacy interest outweighed the government’s interest in protecting and rehabilitating juvenile offenders, especially because the government’s main interest in delinquency proceedings is a general interest in law enforcement. Nothing prevented the probation department, which handled the testing, from turning over the results to law enforcement officials. Although the court found the original order unconstitutional, it denied relief to the mother on waiver grounds. The mother did not contest the validity of the original order until after violating it nearly a year after its issuance, waiving her argument that the order was unconstitutional.
 
Further, the court rejected the mother’s sufficiency of the evidence and subject matter jurisdiction challenges, finding that under MCL 712A.6, the family court has jurisdiction to issue orders affecting adults to the extent that the orders are necessary for the well-being of a juvenile under its jurisdiction. 

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