Contempt of Court – Defined
We’ve all seen and heard the phrase “Contempt of Court,” whether you have been involved in various court proceedings or you simply watch a lot of television. One of my favorite instances of contempt was in the movie My Cousin Vinny, where Joe Pesci’s lawyer character was hilariously held in contempt multiple times – mostly because of his big mouth, unconventional style, and his choice in courtroom attire.
But being held in contempt is a much more serious offense, and it’s not relegated to the courtroom itself. Let’s discuss.
You, sir, are hereby held in contempt!
There are two types of contempt proceedings – criminal proceedings and civil proceedings. Within those proceedings, which we have detailed out below, you can either be held in direct contempt or indirect contempt.
Direct contempt is when you do something to disobey a judge in his or her presence. For example, maybe you argue with another lawyer or party involved in the case, or you overstep your bounds with the judge.
Indirect contempt is when the judge tells you to do something and you violate that order outside his presence. An example of this would be refusing to obey a child-support order.
Both Direct and Indirect contempt can lead to the criminal and/or civil punishments mentioned above:
This is used to coerce a party to comply with a previous court order. Basically, the court says, “Do this or you will be held in contempt.” An example can be a court fine and/or jail time. There are no restrictions on the amount or duration of a fine for civil contempt. The total period of incarceration cannot exceed 18 months.
This is slightly different from civil contempt because punishment for criminal contempt is fixed and cannot be avoided. An example, again, is either a fine imposed by the court, imprisonment, or both.
Before filing your case, give Nelson Law Group, PC a call. It is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your situation. Our friendly staff is here to help you. For more information about Brett A Nelson click here