What Is Contempt Of Court?
Being held in contempt of court is relatively unknown to most people until it actually happens to them. Being held in contempt is often subjective, depending on the judge, but generally refers to conduct that “Defies, disrespects, or insults the dignity and authority of the court.”
If that sounds a bit vague, a more colloquial way to describe contempt of court is: Saying or doing something inside or outside of court that pisses off the judge or is in direct violation of court orders.
There are also two different kinds of contempt. There is civil contempt of court and criminal contempt of court.
Civil Contempt Of Court
The most common reason for being charged with civil contempt of court is failing to comply with a court order. A good example of this would be a parent who refuses to pay court-ordered child support or spousal support to their former spouse.
Charges of civil contempt typically carry fines, but can also result in jail time in extreme circumstances. While contempt charges are often the last resort, they’re also one of the most effective ways for the court to ensure that people are held accountable.
Criminal Contempt Of Court
Criminal contempt of court is an actual criminal charge. Being charged with criminal contempt can happen on the spot in court, and can result in the person being charged being immediately taken into custody.
Criminal contempt charges are entirely separate from any other criminal or civil charges a defendant is facing. Even if a defendant is found innocent in their primary civil or criminal case, they can still be charged with criminal contempt of court.
A good example of criminal contempt would be if a defendant gets angry in court and assaults a witness, juror, attorney, or the judge. In that event, the judge could charge the defendant with criminal contempt right then and have them placed into custody, even if they’re out on bail for their primary charges.
How To Avoid Charges Of Contempt
For most people, avoiding contempt of court charges shouldn’t be a big problem. Obey all court orders, and conduct yourself responsibly in court.
For those who tend to be a bit more excitable or rebellious, the consequences of bad behavior in or outside of court always outweigh any temporary satisfaction you may get. If you are unsure about what is required of you, or how to behave in court, speak with your attorney beforehand.
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