Contempt (Contempt of Court)

California Contempt of Court Definition & Meaning

Contempt, also called Contempt of Court, refers to the willful disobedience of a court order or some other conduct that disrupts or disrespects a court proceeding. There are two types of Contempt of Court: Civil Contempt and Criminal Contempt.

Civil Contempt in California

Civil Contempt refers to the willful disobeying of a court order. The remedy for Civil Contempt in California is a fine and possible jail time. The fine or jail is intended to make someone obey a court order and not to punish him.

Examples of Civil Contempt include (but not limited to):

  • Failing to pay child support;

  • Violating a Stay-Away order issued by the Court;
  • Failing to show up for a court hearing;
  • Failing to attend court-ordered parenting classes;
  • Failure to comply with the court-ordered child visitation schedule.

Criminal Contempt in California

Criminal Contempt is behavior that disobeys, disrespects, attacks or undermines the authority, integrity and dignity of the court. In California, Contempt of Court is charged under Penal Code section 166 and punishes the following behavior:

  • Disobeying a Court Order;

  • Engaging in loud and rude acts in court that disrupts a court proceeding;
  • Refusing to be sworn in as a witness and refusing to answer significant and important questions during a court proceeding;
  • Violating a protective order (restraining or stay-away order) involving domestic violence or elder and dependent adult abuse cases;
  • Publishing a false account of court proceedings.

Criminal Contempt is generally prosecuted as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail, three years of informal probation and a fine of $1000. The penalties for the more serious acts of Contempt of Court can range from one year in county jail to three years in state prison.

These acts include:

  • Violation of a Stay-Away order in a domestic violence case;
  • Violation of a criminal protective order with a prior stalking conviction; and
  • Possessing a firearm in violation of a Court Order.

For more information on Contempt of Court refer to Violating A Court Order in Los Angeles.

Consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys and learn what legal options are available to you and how we can help you.

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