State ex rel. Toryak v. Spagnuolo

Decision Date23 June 1982
Docket NumberNo. 14939,14939
Citation170 W.Va. 234,292 S.E.2d 654
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE ex rel. Pamela J. TORYAK v. Ralph A. SPAGNUOLO.

Syllabus by the Court

In a proceeding upon a bastardy charge under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1 et seq., the paternity of the child, if contested, is an essential element of the charge, and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

B. Keith Huffman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for appellee.

Douglas A. Cornelius, Clarksburg, for appellant.

MILLER, Chief Justice:

The appellant, Ralph A. Spagnuolo, appeals from a final decision of the Circuit Court of Harrison County adjudicating him to be the father of an illegitimate child. The appellant's only assignment of error raises the question of what is the proper standard of proof in a paternity action. The appellant contends that the lower court improperly held that only proof by a preponderance of the evidence was required.

The appellant was arrested June 13, 1979, on a warrant charging him with fathering the appellee's illegitimate child. W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq. The appellant's first trial, on November 13, 1979, ended in a mistrial. At his retrial on March 18 and March 19, 1980, the jury concluded that the appellant had fathered the appellee's child and the court ordered him to pay $100.00 per month child support until the child reaches age eighteen or dies. The appellant contends here that paternity proceedings pursuant to W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq., are criminal trials, and that the lower court erred in refusing to give his instructions informing the jury that the standard of proof in such cases is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In support of his contention that paternity proceedings are criminal actions, the appellant notes that in such actions: a warrant is issued, the defendant is arrested, required to post bond and may be imprisoned for noncompliance; he must plead guilty or not guilty; he has a right to a jury trial; the action is prosecuted by the county prosecutor, and, if convicted, the defendant can be imprisoned for failure to post bond and pay child support. W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq.

We used much the same reasoning in State ex rel. Graves v. Daugherty, 164 W.Va. 726, 266 S.E.2d 142 (1980) to require under due process concepts, the right of an indigent putative father to have court appointed counsel and a state paid blood test in a bastardy proceeding under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq. 1 In Daugherty, we also noted the interrelationship between the paternity issue involved in a bastardy proceeding under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, and a criminal non-support proceeding under W.Va.Code, 48-8-1, et seq., which can be used for the support of an illegitimate child.

"He is also subject to misdemeanor criminal prosecution for non-support, Code, 48-8-1, et seq. We have frequently held that the non-support statute must be read in pari materia with the paternity law. State v. Bragg, 152 W.Va. 372, 163 S.E.2d 685 (1968); State ex rel. Worley v. Lavender, 147 W.Va. 803, 131 S.E.2d 752 (1963). Paternity, as an element of the crime of non-support, must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Clay, 160 W.Va. 651, 236 S.E.2d 230 (1977)." 164 W.Va. 732, 266 S.E.2d at 145.

In Syllabus Point 1 of State v. Clay, 160 W.Va. 651, 236 S.E.2d 230 (1977), we held that where a criminal non-support proceeding is utilized under W.Va.Code, 48-8-1 et seq., for support of an illegitimate child the defendant's paternity of the illegitimate child must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

"In an indictment charging a defendant with nonsupport of an illegitimate child, the paternity of the child, if contested is an essential element of the crime charged and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

We also recognized in Clay, supra, that this was a change in our prior law which had held that paternity need only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in a criminal non-support proceeding. 2

Recently, in State ex rel. S. M. B. v. D. A. P., 168 W.Va. 455, 284 S.E.2d 912 (1981), we dealt with the constitutionality of the three-year statute of limitation contained in the bastardy section of W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, and concluded it violated equal protection principles. In the course of that opinion in speaking of a bastardy proceeding we said:

"While a paternity action does not involve potentially either a fine or imprisonment, nonetheless, the action is begun by warrant in Magistrate Court and has many of the attributes of a criminal prosecution. See State ex rel. Graves v. Daugherty, 164 W.Va. 726, 266 S.E.2d 142 (1980). Preeminent among these attributes is the requirement that paternity be proven beyond a reasonable doubt." 168 W.Va. 460, 284 S.E.2d at 915.

It is clear that the paternity issue in a bastardy proceeding under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq. is identical to the paternity issue on a criminal non-support charge of an illegitimate child under W.Va.Code, 48-8-1, et seq. We have mandated in State v. Clay, supra, that a criminal non-support proceeding on behalf of an illegitimate child requires proof of paternity beyond a reasonable doubt. In State ex rel. Graves v. Daugherty, involving a bastardy proceeding under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq., we recognized the criminal implications of the procedure and noted that once paternity was established the defendant was subject to criminal non-support. 3 Consequently, it is clear that because of the identicality of the paternity issue and the fact that both proceedings have been found to be criminal in nature, proof of paternity must be established beyond a reasonable doubt in both proceedings.

We, therefore, conclude that in a proceeding upon a bastardy charge under W.Va.Code, 48-7-1, et seq., the paternity of the child, if contested is an essential element of the charge, and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. To the extent that State ex rel. Worley v. Lavender, 147 W.Va. 803, 131 S.E.2d 752 (1963); State ex rel. Crouser v. Mercer, 141 W.Va. 691, 92 S.E.2d 745 (1956) (previously overruled on other grounds); Holmes v. Clegg, 131 W.Va. 449, 48 S.E.2d 438 (1948); State ex rel. Rufus v. Easley, 129 W.Va. 410, 40 S.E.2d 827 (1946); State ex rel. Cottrill v. Jarvis, 121 W.Va. 496, 5 S.E.2d 115 (1939); Pope v. Kincaid, 99 W.Va. 677, 129 S.E. 752 (1925); Waters v. Riley, 87...

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  • State ex rel. Roy Allen S. v. Stone
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • 14 June 1996
    ...sired. See Holmes v. Clegg, 131 W.Va. 449, 451, 48 S.E.2d 438, 440 (1948), overruled on other grounds by State ex rel. Toryak v. Spagnuolo, 170 W.Va. 234, 292 S.E.2d 654 (1982). See also State ex rel. J.L.K. v. R.A.I., 170 W.Va. 339, 294 S.E.2d 142 (1982). "At common law, an illegitimate ch......
  • Moore v. Goode, 17299
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • 10 November 1988
    ...and carried into W.Va.Code, 48A-6-4 (1986), overrules the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard set in State ex rel. Toryak v. Spagnuolo, 170 W.Va. 234, 292 S.E.2d 654 (1982). 4. The determined father language contained in W.Va.Code, 48-4-1(b) (1985), which is part of our adoption statut......
  • State v. Tennant
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • 12 July 1984
    ...See, e.g., State ex rel. Rufus v. Easley, 129 W.Va. 410, 40 S.E.2d 827 (1946), overruled on other grounds, State ex rel. Toryak v. Spagnuolo, W.Va., 292 S.E.2d 654 (1982); State ex rel. Neill v. Nutter, 99 W.Va. 146, 128 S.E. 142 (1925).6 In 3 C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure § 517......
  • Shelby J.S. v. George L.H.
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • 17 May 1989
    ...paternity suits as quasi-criminal in nature and, therefore, not subject to the Rules of Civil Procedure. See State ex rel. Toryak v. Spagnuolo, 170 W.Va. 234, 292 S.E.2d 654 (1982), overruled on other grounds, Moore v. Goode, 180 W.Va. 78, 375 S.E.2d 549 (1988); State ex rel. Graves v. Daug......
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