FERRIER FILES: Murfreesboro dad wins custody after battle with court system


Murfreesboro's Daniel Russell did everything DCS asked.

Until a judge asked him to take a surprise drug test in court. when he had never had any kind of drug issues or even allegations. Russell said no.

The judge told him right then and there that he just lost his kids.

Let’s go back to March.

Daniel Russell gets a call. His ex-wife was losing custody of their three children. If he wanted them to stay out of foster care, he had two hours to come claim them.

Not only did he pick up his kids, but he rented a bigger place for his now family of seven. He got their medical and educational needs met and put them on a structured schedule.

He said he was told everything he did everything they asked and had just one more court date, a formality. That's where Wayne County Juvenile Judge James Ross ordered Russell to take a drug test.

Russell said he offered to go to a lab and take a test, but not in court because there was no reason for the test. The judge dropped the gavel and took the kids away.

That's when Russell called family law attorney Connie Reguli.

“His fourth amendment rights were violated,” Reguli said. "By ordering a suspicion-less drug test. It is absurd to think that you can lose your kids for not cooperating with a government agency when that agency has no grounds."

Russell appealed, and the decision went public with a Fox 17 News exclusive interview.

Eventually, he won without even going to court. DCS gave him his kids back.

“I kept pushing them,” Reguli said. "They had nothing nothing. No evidence that he ever abused drugs or alcohol or mistreated his children, and they needed to get the kids back to him. They finally agreed."

So it is victory, but it is bittersweet.

The kids were taken from their dad for four long months, and now Russell is worried they will come after him again.

“They are home and they are ecstatic to be home, but now they are marked,” Reguli said. "Because the sad truth is once you are in the system you are in it for good. Forever."

Russell actually chose not to be in the follow-up story. He's got his family back and he doesn't want to give the courts any ammunition to take his children again.

By the way, Daniel Russell did go to the lab and did take a drug test. He passed.

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