What is the Penalty for Being Held in Contempt of Court?
What is Contempt of Court?
Contempt of court is defiance or disrespect of a judge or court. To control their courtrooms and compel people to obey court orders, judges are given the prerogative to jail people who defy them.
Contempt of court charges are not like ordinary criminal charges. The judge who imposes them does not have to prove anything, and you have no right to a trial by jury. The judge has the sole right to find you in contempt.
On the other hand, the judge has to offer you a reasonable way out. If you comply with the court’s orders, you can be released. If you don’t, then you can stay in jail for as long as you can be stubborn.
In United States law, contempt of court can be considered either direct or indirect.
Direct Contempt of Court
Direct contempt of court occurs when you behave in a disorderly way inside the courtroom. Generally, this involves impeding the process of a trial, disobeying the orders of a judge, or being rude to a judge. The purpose of this power is to keep people from disrupting the legal process. A judge will usually warn you that your behavior runs the risk of incurring contempt charges, and give you the chance to correct your behavior. If you persist, you may be jailed until you apologize and promise to follow the judge’s rules in the courtroom.
Indirect Contempt of Court
Indirect contempt involves failure to comply with a court order. When a legal order demands that you perform or refrain from certain actions, and you violate that order, you are in indirect contempt of court. In failing to obey a legal order, you have broken the law, and can be jailed until you return to compliance.
Many cases of indirect contempt arise from violations of restraining orders. Perhaps the most common cause is failure to abide by a divorce agreement. If you don’t pay alimony and child support as ordered by the court, or if you don’t abide by the custody agreement, you could be found in contempt of court.
What to Do if You’re Facing Contempt of Court Charges
Contempt of court charges can be very difficult for you to deal with alone. If you’re facing these charges, you need the services of our criminal lawyers. The Philadelphia criminal defense attorney firm, Brennan Law Offices offers the services you need to deal with contempt of court charges.