The court system has the power to control courtroom behavior and to enforce it’s court orders. A case of being in contempt of court occurs when someone in the courtroom disobeys a direct court order, shows a sign of disrespect for the judge, or is disruptive during the judicial proceedings. There are two kinds of contempt: civil and criminal. In addition, contempt can be defined as direct (occurs in front of the judge and disrupts the court proceedings) or as indirect (occurs outside of the presence of the judge).
Civil contempt generally occurs when a person refuses to obey a direct court order. Civil contempt can often be “purged” by following the court’s orders. Some orders include a fine, a confinement in jail, or both types can be used for a case of civil contempt. The sanctions are meant to coerce a compliance with the court’s order as opposed to punish the person in contempt. In the instance of being jailed, the person will be released when they comply with the court orders. Any failure to comply with an injunction can be considered a case of civil contempt.
A case of criminal contempt involves conduct that interferes with or obstructs justice. Criminal contempt can include: threatening or insulting a judge, witness and disobeying a subpoena to produce evidence for the court. In a case of criminal contempt, the actual act of contempt has been completed and the case of contempt cannot be “purged.” Generally punishment is imposed to vindicate the court’s authority over the matter. Criminal contempt is punishable by a fine, jail, or both. The failure to comply is the same as Civil Contempt.
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