St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Trials Often Turn on a ‘Mistake of Fact’

trial case

Believing something false can lead individuals into situations they would never accept otherwise. In a paternity case reviewed by Michigan’s Court of Appeals, a man wanted to revoke his affidavit of parentage once he learned he was not the biological father. Originally, the man acted on a “mistake of fact” asserting he was the father. A criminal defense lawyer can help defendants understand these distinctions during trial.

Defining a ‘Mistake of Fact’

In the appeal court decision, the judge defined mistake of fact as “a belief that a certain fact exists when in truth and in fact it does not exist.” This belief can lead to various actions with no basis in reality. The defendant found himself in such a situation. Told he was the only possible father of a child, the man agreed to sign an affidavit asserting he was the parent.

Later, DNA testing showed he was in fact not the father. However, his request to have the affidavit of parentage revoked was denied by the Ostego Circuit Court, which left the defendant on the hook for child support payments and other responsibilities typically reserved for parents. This is where an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County needs to step in and help.

DNA Does Not Tell Whole Story

The appeals court went on to say DNA testing is not enough to declare a man parent or not. “Biology does not control either an acknowledgment of paternity or its revocation,” the court said in its decision. A man may attest to parentage to a baby out of wedlock and be held responsible for the protection and support of that child.

Nonetheless, the system breaks down when the basis of the man’s claims to paternity are based on a fiction, as they were in this case. Starting with a false statement, the man agreed to be considered the parent as an acceptance of responsibility. Therefore, his application to revoke his affidavit of parenthood was accepted.

A top criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC can help defendants in any trial case; especially ones of such nature. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one our highly experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyers please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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