Skip to content

Civil Contempt

Civil Contempt Definition 

Civil contempt is any willful disobedience of a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court. Civil contempt can also be any action that interferes with a judge's ability to administer justice or disrespects the prestige of the court. Civil contempt occurs both within and outside the courtroom. Courts have to be sure that their orders are being respected both inside and outside the court, which can also include not following court orders upon leaving a court hearing. It is highly recommended for individuals to be respectful during court hearings and to adhere to the court's decision to avoid additional penalties for being in civil contempt. 

What Are the Different Kinds of Contempt? 

The two types of contempt are civil and criminal. These two types of contempt are often confused. Civil contempt is when an individual willfully disobeys an order set out by the court. Criminal contempt is when an individual interferes with the court's ability to function. 

What Is A Willful Disregard or Disobedience of a Public Authority?

The United States Constitution sets out specific standards to be followed when it comes to disobeying laws set out by the Legislative and Judicial Branch. Within the framework set out by the United States Constitution, each state creates its own narrow guidelines that both state courts and residents of that state must follow. Courts of justice in the United States have an inherent power to punish any person for contempt of their rules and orders if they disobey the court's process or disturb the court in their proceedings. Depending on whether the court is a state or federal court, there are different rules governing contempt. It is important as a general rule of thumb for individuals in court to behave respectfully in a court hearing and to follow all decisions set out by the court. 

What Is the Punishment for Civil Contempt? 

Civil contempt of court has different punishments than criminal contempt of court. For civil contempt of court sanctions have two objectives, which are listed below: 

  • Restore rights to the party who was wronged by the failure to satisfy the court's order. 
  • Move an underlying proceeding to the next stage. 

For individuals guilty of civil contempt, it is possible to be given jail time in rare cases. Individuals held in civil contempt must be given notice of contempt sanctions and a possibility of being heard, but they are not guaranteed a jury trial like criminal defendants are in the United States. When a punishment is assigned for a civil contempt case, it usually involves jail time or a fine. The punishments can tend to last until the defiance of the court order is followed by the individual being sanctioned with civil contempt. 

What Is the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Contempt? 

Contempt of court has the possibility of being either direct or indirect. Direct contempt occurs in the physical presence of the court during a court hearing. Indirect contempt occurs outside the presence of the court. Indirect civil contempt is quite common, and it occurs when individuals defy court orders by failing to pay child support or not providing documentation within the court-mandated period. 

Should I Hire an Attorney if I Have Been Placed in Civil Contempt of Court? 

Depending on the individual's circumstances, it is wise to work with an attorney to clear up any legal issues related to civil contempt of court. Civil contempt of court is a serious matter that can have repercussions on an individual's finances, employment, and reputation. Hiring an attorney or working with an individual's existing attorney is a smart decision to be sure that the individual complies with the court's orders and is either released from custody or pays up any remaining fines associated with their case. 

Civil Contempt Glossary Definition

Civil contempt occurs when an individual disrespects a court or makes it impossible for a court to carry out its proceedings. Civil contempt can also occur when an individual does not follow a court order. Civil contempt is different from criminal contempt of court. Civil contempt usually includes a failure to adhere to a court order. Civil contempt can have punishments related to fines or jail time in more severe cases.