Recently the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, handed down its decision in State v. Salazar. The defendant had appealed his conviction for criminal nonsupport based upon: violation of his due process rights by the trial court refusing to order blood testing, by the responsibility to pay child support being based upon an administrative order of paternity as opposed to a court determination, and that his 28-day sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in that the sentence is disproportionate to the wrongful act he allegedly committed.
During the defendant's marriage his wife became pregnant but both admitted that the child was not the defendant's. His name was put on the birth certificate due to the insistence of a hospital clerk since they were still married at the time of the birth. Subsequently the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) served its "Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility" on the defendant and he and the mother contested the paternity. After the defendant's failure to show at the hearing a default decision and order was entered finding the defendant to be the father of the child and ordered him to pay child support. Defendant did not seek a judicial review of the order and he did not pay the child support. The defendant was charged with criminal nonsupport. After a trial to the judge the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 28 days in the county jail.
The appellate court found that the defendant's due process rights were not violated by the trial court's failure to order DNA testing because the biological paternity is not a required element of proof in a criminal nonsupport case. Further, his rights were not violated because it was based upon an administrative order rather than a court order. An administrative order of paternity is given the same force and effect as those made in a court. The fact that the defendant failed to request judicial review of the administrative order does not change this. The appellate court also found that the 28-day sentence was not "cruel and unusual punishment" when the defendant could have received a jail sentence of up to one year. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.
This is a good case to show that you need to appear at all hearings when directed and that the proper procedures need to be followed such as the judicial review process when dissatisfied with an administrative order. It is also a good case to show that you should not let your name be added to a birth certificate if you contest the paternity of the child.
Source: State v. Salazar, WD65099, (Mo. App. W.D. 02/13/2007).