Criminal contempt of court is behavior that disobeys, offends, or disrespects the authority or dignity of a court. To learn more, continue reading and give our firm a call today if you have any questions. Our skilled Richmond criminal defense attorney is on your side.
What does “contempt of court” mean?
Contempt of court is defined as conduct that defies, disrespects, or insults the authority or dignity of a court. Usually, contempt takes the shape of actions that are harmful to the court’s ability to administer justice. Judges typically have much discretion in determining whom to hold in contempt and the kind of contempt. Those held in contempt can contain parties to a proceeding, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, people in or around a proceeding, and officers or staff of the court itself. There are two types of contempt of court recognized: criminal contempt of court and civil contempt.
With civil contempt, it is the failure of someone to comply with a court order. Judges use civil contempt sanctions to force such a person into complying with a court order the person has violated.
Keep in mind that if you’re charged with criminal contempt of court, the charges are punitive, which means that they serve to discourage future acts of contempt by penalizing the offender no matter what occurs in the underlying proceeding. Someone imprisoned for criminal contempt can’t secure their own release by choosing to abide by the court.
Judges use various factors when determining whether to hold someone in civil or criminal contempt, including the nature of the underlying court proceeding (criminal or civil) and the harshness of the contemnor’s behavior.
What are indirect and direct contempt?
Contempt of court can occur either “directly” or “indirectly.” Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court. For instance, someone could commit direct contempt by screaming at the judge in a way that restricts the court’s ability to perform and brings disrespect to the court. Indirect contempt happens outside the presence of the court. Examples include improperly speaking with jurors outside the court, refusing to turn over subpoenaed evidence, and refusing to pay court-ordered child support. Recognize that not all of these measures illustrate criminal contempt.
What are the consequences of a criminal contempt charge?
Criminal contempt charges become different charges from the underlying case. Unlike civil contempt sanctions, criminal contempt charges may live on after the resolution of the underlying case.
An individual that is charged with criminal contempt normally gets the constitutional rights guaranteed to criminal defendants, including the right to counsel, the right to put on a defense, and the right to a jury trial in some cases. Charges of criminal contempt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
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