Courts are the arbiters of controversies. Those controversies may be civil, such as when parties disagree on matters in divorces, child custody, property issues, and personal injury claims. Other controversies are criminal, such as when a defendant stands accused of criminal violation of the law. In both cases, the court listens to evidence presented by each side and applies the law in rendering a decision. That decision, unless appealed to a higher court and overturned, is irrevocably binding on all parties involved. The law requires that the court and its actions must be respected. Disrespect in the courtroom or failure to obey a court order outside the courtroom are criminal acts with criminal consequences. If you have been charged with indirect criminal contempt, you need an experienced lawyer to mount a defense.
What Are Indirect Criminal Contempt Charges?
You may be charged with indirect criminal contempt if you disobey a court order. Such orders require that you adhere to or refrain from certain conduct. For example, if you violate the terms of a restraining order, you can be charged with indirect criminal contempt. The same would apply to violating a cease-and-desist order or a gag order.
You could also be charged for failure to appear in a court-appointed hearing. For example, if you were served a summons to appear in court in a child custody case or to testify in a criminal case, you must appear at the appointed date, time, and location. If you fail to do so, you may face criminal contempt charges.
Because this is a criminal charge rather than a civil charge, you are entitled to defend yourself against it and the prosecution is required to prove criminal contempt. An indirect criminal contempt charge is separate from any other matter you may be facing in court, such as a divorce, assault, or child custody proceeding.
Don’t face this charge alone–hire a competent Pottstown criminal defense lawyer who can fight for your future.
What Is Direct vs. Indirect Criminal Contempt?
Direct and indirect criminal contempt are different. Indirect criminal contempt occurs outside the physical confines of the courtroom. A charge of direct criminal contempt, on the other hand, may result from disrespect and disruption in the courtroom, such as talking back to the judge, verbally assaulting a witness, or committing some other type of outbreak. If charged with direct criminal contempt, there is no burden of proof and no prosecution of the charge. That burden is removed because the judge witnesses the events personally. Therefore, the judge will render both verdict and penalty immediately.
What Is Proof of Indirect Criminal Contempt?
If charged with indirect criminal contempt, the prosecution would need to prove that you defied the court’s authority. If, for instance, you have been charged for failure to appear in court as ordered, the prosecution would need to produce evidence that you were properly and timely served notice of the court summons and that you intentionally defied the summons by not showing up in court.
If you allegedly violated a Protection from Abuse Order, the prosecution needs to produce evidence of the violation. For example, there must be evidence that you contacted the subject of the protective order or evidence that you knowingly were in too-close proximity to the subject in violation of the terms of the order.
As is true with any criminal charge, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecuting attorney bears the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Penalties Do I Face if Convicted?
Possible penalties for a contempt conviction in Pennsylvania include fines between $300 and $1,000 and possible incarceration for up to six months, or fines and supervised probation for up to six months.
You will pay other penalties as well. If convicted, you will have a criminal record that has implications for employment, professional licensure, housing, loan availability, and child custody and visitation. Having a criminal record can also take a toll on your personal relationships with family, children, and friends.
Contact an Indirect Criminal Contempt Lawyer
Defying a court order is a serious crime with serious consequences. You need an attorney who can defend you against an indirect criminal contempt charge and mitigate penalties if found guilty. Contact Cohen & Patel today so we can get started working on your case. We represent clients charged with crimes throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, including in Montgomery County, Chester County, and Berks County and in East Norriton, Norristown, Allentown, Lancaster, Bensalem, Easton, Levittown, Bethlehem, Erie, Mechanicsburg, Chester, Harrisburg, and more.