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What is a Contempt Order?

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A contempt order is a disciplinary action against someone who is participating in a court procedure who has disobeyed the rules of the courtroom. Those who can receive a contempt order include jurors, attorneys, audience members, witnesses or staff. Reasons for receiving a contempt order vary, but they can include disobeying an order, not complying with a request, tampering with or withholding evidence, interrupting a proceeding, or disrespecting or disobeying the authority of the court in any way.

Contempt Order Types

There are generally four types of contempt: civil, criminal, direct and indirect. Civil contempt refers to failure to comply with an order that enforces the rights of an individual or calls for a remedy. Civil contempt commonly applies to an action against one individual, and it is often used to move proceedings along. Criminal contempt, on the other hand, refers to anything that disrupts the decorum or workings of the court; this type of contempt can occur in either civil or criminal cases. Criminal contempt often applies to actions against society (i.e. the courtroom), and is meant to be a punitive action.

Direct contempt is an action that takes place in the courtroom intended to disrupt or disrespect courtroom proceedings. This can include shouting or not cooperating with the judge. Indirect contempt takes place outside the courtroom but also is anything that impedes or disrespects the court. Threatening a judge is an example of indirect contempt of court.

Contempt Order Procedure

Once someone commits an action that earns them a contempt of court order, they are issued a penalty. This can include jail time or a fine. In civil cases, the severity of the penalty can be predetermined or be required until the offender complies with a requested action. In criminal cases, if jail time exceeds six months combined, the penalty must be tried by a jury.

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