What happens if you are labeled contempt in court?

What happens if you are labeled in contempt of court? There’s a lot at stake, including your freedom, and you need to know what legal ramifications you could be facing. If you’re found guilty, this conviction could end up on your public record or, worse, land you in jail. Our guide will explain what contempt means, the sentences you could receive, and how you can take action to avoid this charge.

What Is Contempt of Court?

Court Gavel in Contempt of Court Case

If you’re involved in a court order, you must comply with each stipulation, or else the judge can hold you in contempt. This is very serious and can result in fines, sanctions, or even imprisonment. In general, you can’t be found in contempt for alleged bad behavior. Instead, you must violate a direct written order that’s signed by the judge, filed with the court, and served upon you. If the judge believes you are in contempt, they will set an evidentiary hearing so you can defend yourself against these charges and work to get them dismissed.

How to File for Contempt

If you believe another person’s actions violated a written court order, you can file for contempt and ask the judge to hold them responsible. You must follow these steps to move through the court’s process:

  1. Complete the motion: This form is mandatory and informs the judge and other parties about the violation. Explain what the person did and how you were harmed.
  2. File the paperwork: File your motion with the same district court where your case was originally heard. Remember, there is a fee to file your papers.
  3. Serve the other party: Use regular mail to send the other parties a copy of your motion. This step is essential, and if you don’t serve the defendant properly, the judge will likely deny your request.
  4. Certify mailing: Once you serve the motion, fill out a Certificate of Mailing, including where, when, and how you served the other party.
  5. Wait for a response: The defendant has 14 days to file a response to your contempt motion or three additional days if the motion was mailed.
  6. Request submission: Once the time for opposition has passed, let the judge know the case is ready for review by filling out a Request for Submission.
  7. Wait for review: The judge will read through your motion and the defendant’s response and either make a decision or set a hearing.
  8. Prepare for the evidentiary hearing: The judge may allow the other party a chance to defend against the contempt charge and may want to examine the parties in person before making a final ruling.

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What’s the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Contempt?

Civil contempt is different than criminal contempt. It’s meant to compel people to follow the court’s orders in a civil matter. An example would be a judge fining a defendant for violating a restraining order to deter them from contacting the protected person.

Criminal contempt is meant to punish those who impede judicial proceedings. These charges are handled separately from the underlying criminal case and may continue long after the original claim is disposed of. In contrast, a civil contempt case ceases when the legal issue from which it arose is resolved.

What Are the Consequences of a Contempt Conviction?

According to NRS 193.300, the punishment for contempt in Nevada can be quite severe. A misdemeanor conviction can lead to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. If you’re found guilty of a civil charge, there is a maximum of a $500 fine and/or 25 days in jail. However, it’s possible to receive a harsher sentence, depending on the circumstances of your civil case. For example, if you refuse to testify before a grand jury, expect up to six months in jail. If you defy a judge’s order, you’ll stay incarcerated until you comply.

Another factor to consider is that if you commit a crime and that action constitutes contempt, you can be penalized for both offenses. If you’re convicted, you can face additional consequences. However, if your contempt punishment is considered a factor that could mitigate your criminal sentence, you may not have to endure as harsh a penalty.

When Can a Contempt Record Be Sealed?

Many defendants want to seal all records related to their contempt conviction. The results of this action mean that the public won’t be able to see this charge on your criminal record. However, this process isn’t an expungement. Your record still legally exists and can be accessed by government officials or anyone with a court order.

In Nevada, a misdemeanor criminal contempt conviction is sealable one year after the case ends. If your charge is ultimately dismissed, you can request that the court seal the records immediately. You typically must petition the court directly to have this done. Contact the jurisdiction where the case was heard, or hire a law firm such as De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers to assist you.

Do You Need an Attorney for Contempt?

If you are charged with contempt, consult an experienced attorney immediately. Our law firm will help you find ways to avoid penalties such as fines or even prison time that could result from a conviction. Thankfully, you can fight this charge. Contempt of court is just like any indictment, and the prosecution or petitioner has the burden of proof. For that reason, there are three common beneficial criminal defense strategies that most lawyers focus on:

  • Lack of intent: Because willfulness is essential in a contempt crime, as long as you can prove that you violated the judge’s order by accident or by no fault of your own, the charges probably won’t stand.
  • Lack of contempt: The charge should be dismissed if the prosecutor can’t show that your behavior rose to the level of criminal contempt.
  • False allegations: Sometimes people make mistakes or even wrongly accuse you of contemptuous behavior out of spite or revenge. Reasonable doubt about your crime may prevent you from being held criminally liable.

The skilled legal team at De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers is experienced with the laws surrounding contempt, and we can help protect you from unfair consequences. No matter what legal issue you’re facing, you want the representation of an expert local firm. We’ll work together to reduce the chances of contempt, help you understand the process, and lessen the penalties if you find yourself in contempt. Contact us today for a free consultation so we can evaluate your case.

Photo Credit: Brown Wooden Gavel on Brown Wooden Table by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA is licensed with Pexels License