Let a Lawyer Fight Your Federal Contempt Charges
Contempt of court refers to failure to comply with a court’s order or conduct that interferes with or obstructs orderly administration of justice. Contempt charges help to preserve the dignity of court proceedings and prevent interruption of administered justice.
Have you been charged with contempt by a federal court? If so, receiving such a charge suggests that you’ve failed to perform a particular act in compliance with a court’s judgment (as deemed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 70).
Call us today to let us look into your case and defend you against your charges in court.
Why Am I Being Charged with Contempt?
The expectation is that people who participate in legal proceedings in the United States will follow lawful orders by the court. However, if you don’t fulfill that obligation and fail to comply, you may find that you’re facing contempt charges.
It’s crucial that you understand your rights under the law and how you can defend yourself. If charged with a crime, you’ll need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who can help formulate an appropriate defense.
A talented attorney may also negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charges against you or lessen possible penalties.
Have You Been Charged With Indirect or Direct Contempt of Court?
Contempt of court is considered either direct or indirect:
- Direct contempt is committing contempt in the view and presence of the court. Failure to appear before the court in compliance with a summons is considered direct contempt. Such cases of direct contempt are punishable without trial.
- Indirect contempt occurs outside the court’s presence. Neglecting to comply with probationary orders is an example of indirect contempt of court. In such cases, the people charged must be notified of their indirect contempt and given an opportunity to be heard.
Have You Been Charged with Civil or Criminal Contempt?
Understanding the difference between civil and criminal contempt is key if you’re cited for contempt. The exact charge will help your attorney determine the best legal approach for your case.
You may be charged with civil contempt if you neglect to follow a court order, such as failing to provide specific documents. In addition, keep in mind that with today’s technological advances, some people may–wittingly or unwittingly–commit acts leading to civil contempt charges.
Texting, using social media, or contacting witnesses while on jury duty qualify a person for contempt charges.
You’ll be charged with criminal contempt if you’ve committed an offense against the judge’s or court’s authority. Examples of criminal contempt include communicating with jurors, being disrespectful to the judge, or interrupting court proceedings.
The line between civil and criminal contempt may not always be clear. In such cases, the judge may consider different factors in determining whether an act of contempt is civil or criminal.
Civil and criminal contempt have different purposes and consequences.
Civil Contempt Charges:
- Civil contempt charges intend to pressure or compel someone to comply with a court order. In addition, if the court imposes fines or penalties to compensate the other party, this is considered civil.
- The judge may remove the charge and the associated fees or penalties when the person complies with the judge’s order. People held in civil contempt are typically punished only for as long as they refuse to comply with the court.
Criminal Contempt Charges:
- In contrast, the purpose of criminal contempt is to punish the person for disrespecting the court’s authority. If the court imposes penalties or fines to punish the person charged with contempt, this is also considered criminal.
- The ruling and punishment are typically final and not dismissed by correcting the action that led to the contempt charge.
Burden of Proof, Defense, and Due Process
A prosecutor can prove civil contempt by presenting clear, convincing evidence that you committed an act of contempt. However, for criminal contempt, a prosecutor needs to provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you’re facing civil contempt charges and it’s not possible for you to comply with the court’s order, your attorney can use the “impossibility of performance” defense. This defense is valid as long as you didn’t create the scenario that made it impossible for you to comply.
You’ll need to show that you made all reasonable efforts in good faith to meet the requirements of the court order. You’ll also need to describe in detail why you’re unable to comply.
If you’re dealing with criminal contempt charges, you’re entitled to the same constitutional due process protections afforded to all U.S. citizens accused of a criminal act, including the right to:
- Be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
- Confront your accuser
- Receive a jury trial
- Receive counsel
- Examine and call witnesses
- Testify on your behalf
Let a Lawyer Defend You Against Your Contempt Charges
If you’ve been charged with contempt, you’ll need to retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to represent you. Although there are plenty of criminal attorneys out there, many do not have experience in federal courts.
Further, many attorneys do not have knowledge of or experience in federal laws regarding criminal contempt charges.
You’ll need to retain the services of an attorney who has a long, successful track record of representing clients and helping them get acquitted or working with prosecutors to get contempt charges and potential penalties reduced.
That’s where the Zoukis Consulting Group can help. Call us today to set up an initial consultation and let us help you defend against your federal contempt charges.
Published Feb 15, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on May 11, 2023 at 6:07 pm