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Posted on July 10, 2023 in Criminal Defense

What Are the Consequences of Being Held in Contempt of Court?

Contempt is punishable conduct someone takes to obstruct or disrupt an official proceeding or court order. Arizona statutes define contempt. However, understanding what type of behavior constitutes contempt of court can be challenging.

In this blog post, our Phoenix criminal defense lawyer and the rest of our legal team discuss the definition of contempt in Arizona. We’ll also provide examples of conduct that could be considered contempt of court. Finally, we’ll explain the potential consequences of being held in contempt of court in Arizona.

Defining Contempt of Court in Arizona

Arizona Revised Statute §12-861 defines criminal contempt of court as a person who willfully disobeys a superior court’s lawful order, writ, judgment, or order. The act or thing done must also constitute a criminal offense.

Typically, a judge must determine the party is guilty of three things to rule the person in contempt of court:

  • The person had knowledge of a valid court order, and
  • The person could have complied with the court order; but,
  • The person failed to comply.

If a judge finds you in contempt of court, you could face several penalties. Sometimes, the penalties could continue until you comply with the court order.

Examples of Contempt of Court in Arizona

There are numerous examples of contempt of court in Arizona’s Title 13 criminal code and Title 12 courts and civil proceedings. Examples of contempt of court include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to appear for jury duty
  • Disrupting court proceedings
  • Being disrespectful to a judge or of the judicial process
  • Refusing to pay child support or alimony
  • Disobeying a court order

There are endless ways a person could violate a court order or be in contempt of court. Understanding what to do if you are in contempt of court is the first step in avoiding the consequences of contempt of court.

Types of Contempt of Court

There are two types of contempt of court. You can be in direct contempt of court when you disobey a court order in the presence of the court, such as being disrespectful in court or refusing to testify.

Indirect contempt occurs when you violate a court order outside of court. It is also known as constructive contempt of court. Examples include failing to attend a hearing, refusing to show up for jury duty, or failing to pay child support.

The consequences for both types of contempt of court can be severe.

What Are the Consequences of Contempt of Court in Arizona?

If a judge finds you in contempt of court after a hearing, you could face one or more penalties. Many of the charges for contempt of court are misdemeanors. However, some contempt of court charges result in felony charges.

The punishment for contempt of court depends on the exact charge. For example, a misdemeanor contempt of court charge could result in a fine of up to $1,000. You could also be sentenced to jail time for the offense.

If you are imprisoned for civil contempt of court for failing to comply with an order by the court, you could be placed in jail. The judge can keep you in jail until you comply with the court’s order.

Felony contempt of court charges could result in expensive fines. Depending on the class of felony, you could spend more than a year in state prison for contempt of court.

What Should I Do if I Am Arrested or Charged with Contempt of Court in Arizona?

Because contempt of court charges vary greatly, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. A Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can review your case, advise you of your legal rights, and explain your options for defending yourself. An attorney can also gather evidence to develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of beating the contempt charges.

As with other criminal charges, it is best not to talk to the police or prosecutor without legal advice. It is best to remain silent except for requesting an attorney. Answering questions or giving a statement could make it more difficult to mount a successful defense.

Contacting a criminal defense attorney can also help you get out of jail. An attorney can argue for the court to grant your release under your own recognizance. Alternatively, your attorney can argue that you should be granted bail to remain free until the court can hear arguments in the contempt of court case.

Experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyers work to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor if going to trial is not in your best interest. In some cases, negotiating a plea deal can avoid the harshest penalties for a guilty verdict. A plea bargain could avoid jail time.

Contact the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Orent Law Offices In Phoenix To Get Legal Assistance Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.

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