Contempt of court is any willful disobedience, or disregard, of a court order. Contempt of court includes misconduct in the presence of a court, including any action that interferes with a judge’s ability to administer justice. Contempt also includes any behavior that insults the court. Contempt is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.
There are two basic types of contempt of court. The first type is criminal contempt, which may be further divided into direct and indirect contempt. Direct contempt is when a person acts disruptively in a court room and the judge uses his authority to summarily declare that person to be in contempt of court. No criminal trial is needed for such a charge. Indirect criminal contempt is a charge brought by a prosecutor against a defendant who has willfully violated a court order. To convict a defendant of indirect criminal contempt, all criminal procedural protections are attached, including proving the contempt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The second type is civil contempt, which may be brought by a plaintiff against a defendant seeking damages due to defendant’s violation of a court order that had been previously awarded to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff wins a civil contempt suit, he or she may be entitled to attorneys fees. Examples of violating a court order include failure to pay child support or failure to follow a restraining order
Examples of violating a court order include:
- Failure to pay child support
- Failure to follow a restraining order
- Denial of child visitation
- Skipping jury duty
- Imprisonment (usually brief)
- Fines or sanctions
If you are accused of contempt of court you should speak to a criminal lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.