Contempt of Court Law

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 What Is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is any willful disregard or disobedience of a court order. Contempt of court also includes misconduct in the presence of a court.

This may include any action that interferes with the judge’s ability to administer justice. Contempt of court may also include any behavior that insults the court or judge.

Contempt of court may be punished by:

  • Fines;
  • Imprisonment; or
  • Both.

If an individual is facing a contempt of court charge, they should consult with a contempt of court lawyer. A contempt of court lawyer can defend the individual and possibly negotiate a reduction in punishment.

What Are the Different Types of Contempt?

There are two main categories of contempt of court, criminal contempt and civil contempt. Criminal contempt may be divided into direct contempt and indirect contempt.

Direct contempt occurs when an individual behaves disruptively in a courtroom and the judge uses their authority to summarily declare the individual to be in contempt of court. A criminal trial is not necessary for such a charge.

Indirect criminal contempt is a charge that is brought by a prosecutor against an individual who has willfully violated a court order. In order to convict a defendant of indirect criminal contempt, all criminal procedural protections are attached, including the requirement to prove the contempt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The second category of contempt is civil contempt. Civil contempt may be brought by a plaintiff against a defendant who is seeking damages because of a defendant’s violation of a court order that was previously ordered.

If a plaintiff prevails in a civil contempt lawsuit, they may be entitled to attorney’s fees. Examples of violating court orders may include failure to pay child support or failure to follow the terms of a restraining order.

What Are the Most Common Ways to Show Contempt of Court?

Some common examples of ways a court order can be violated include:

What Does “ Failure to Appear in Court” Mean?

In general, it is very simple to appear in court. All the individual must do is show up in the correct courtroom at the correct date and time.

This information will be contained in a legal document, for example:

  • Citations;
  • Summons; and
  • Subpoenas.

A citation is often given by a law enforcement officer when an individual violates a traffic law. A citation is often referred to as a traffic ticket and is given to individuals for certain speeding and moving violations.

On the citation, there will be a section that provides the place, date, and time that the individual must appear in court. In certain situations, an individual may pay the fine before their court date.

A summons is a legal document that is used in both civil lawsuits and criminal cases. A defendant in a criminal case as well as all of the parties involved in a lawsuit will receive a summons.

This document includes the date, time and place where a court hearing will take place. If an individual receives a summons, they are required to respond to it and appear in court on that scheduled date.

There may be serious consequences for ignoring a summons. If an individual does not respond or appear, they may lose their civil lawsuit.

If a summons involves a criminal matter, the individual may face more criminal charges in addition to their original charges. A summons is also the document that is used for jury duty.

If an individual receives a summons to appear for jury duty, they must go to court at the listed time and date. If they miss jury duty, there may be penalties, such as paying fines or jail time.

A subpoenas is a type of court order that is often used when an individual is needed as a witness in court. A subpoena to testify, similar to citations and summons, will tell a witness the location, date and time that they must appear.

Failure to follow the instructions in a subpoena may result in a variety of consequences. An individual may be charged with civil or criminal contempt of court and be required to pay fines or serve jail time.

When is a Person Required to Appear in Court?

It is important to note that, even a witness who did not commit any other criminal offenses and was only called to testify may face the same penalties. In certain instances, an individual may be required to appear in person at a specific court.

Examples of when an individual may be required to appear in court include:

  • An individual receives a traffic ticket and must go to traffic court;
  • An individual is charged with a crime;
  • An individual is asked to give testimony as a witness in a court case;
  • Another individual sues someone in a private lawsuit; or
  • An individual is asked to serve for jury duty.

In the majority of situations when an individual is required to appear in court, they must appear at a specific scheduled date and time. For example, when law enforcement issues an individual a traffic ticket, it typically has a court date.

That court date is the date the individual must go to court, or appear in court. Failure to appear (FTA) means that an individual missed their court date.

In other words, they did not show up for court when they were supposed to. When this occurs, a court will typically charge the individual with failure to appear in court, commonly abbreviated FTA.

FTA may lead to criminal penalties, such as a small fine or an arrest warrant, depending on the facts of the situation.

What Should I Know about Appearing in Court?

There are certain guidelines an individual should follow whenever they appear in any court, including:

  • Wearing appropriate clothing;
    • An individual should wear clothing that is clean and neat and wear shoes;
    • Courts are aware that not every individual can afford professional clothing but a clean and neat appearance shows respect;
  • Making sure that the cell phone is put away;
  • Do not eat or drink;
  • Do not chew gum;
  • Do not bring a camera or take pictures;
  • Do not bring any weapons; and
  • Do not speak in the courtroom unless a judge or another court employee requests it;
    • Generally, an individual should remain silent in court.

What Are the Consequences of Contempt of Court?

As noted above, there are consequences that individuals may face for contempt of court, depending on the situation. These consequences may include:

  • Imprisonment, typically briefly;
  • Fines or sanctions;
  • A combination of both; or
  • Additional criminal charges.

What Can You Do if You are Accused of Contempt of Court?

If an individual is accused of contempt of court, they should consult with a criminal lawyer immediately to learn more about their rights, available defenses, and the complicated legal system.

Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Lawyer?

If you have been charged with contempt of court, it is important to consult with a criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of the possible consequences you may face and, in some situations, may be able to negotiate a lesser punishment for your conduct.

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