While there is little doubt to the maternal lineage of a child, the child's paternity isn't always readily apparent. If any doubt exists regarding who fathered a child, a paternity test, which is considered 99.9 percent accurate, puts that doubt to rest. Tampering with the test could drastically alter the course of an entire family's lives and have considerable legal consequences.
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Half a person's DNA comes from his mother and half from his father. During a paternity test, lab technicians extract DNA from a blood or saliva sample given by the child and the alleged father. The lab compares the genetic markers in both samples to determine if the alleged father is, in fact, the biological father. An individual can schedule a paternity test at any time with a private lab or even purchase a paternity testing kit to use at home. State courts, however, will only acknowledge tests performed under the court's supervision. This makes tampering with a paternity test extremely difficult.
Tampering with a paternity test or its results constitutes paternity fraud. Paternity fraud generally occurs when a woman knowingly accuses a man of fathering a child he did not father. Paternity fraud, however, encompasses more than just unfounded accusations. It also includes attempts to dispel or assert paternity by tampering with a paternity test. Because court-supervised tests are the only paternity tests that are admissible in court, tampering with a paternity test is difficult, if not impossible, for most individuals. For example, switching out one test swab for another would constitute tampering, but unless the individual in question has access to the lab performing the test, doing so would not be possible.
State laws vary regarding the legal consequences associated with paternity fraud. In Pennsylvania, for example, in 2008, a man was convicted on seven criminal counts relating to paternity fraud including solicitation to tamper with, or falsify, public information intended for public record, and obstruction of the administration of Pennsylvania law for convincing a friend to impersonate him at the testing center. After exhausting his appeals, he was sentenced to a maximum of 23 months in jail.
Not all cases involving inaccurate test results are the result of tampering. Although the test itself is highly accurate, human error is always a factor. Just like tampering, a mistake can result in an individual paying child support for a child that isn't his or exonerate a child's biological father from his legal responsibilities. If a man believes a lab error caused a positive case result, he can request a second court-supervised paternity test.