Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court is a willful act, omission, or statement that tends to impair the authority or impede the functioning of a Court.  Any allegation of contempt of court will require an effective and experienced lawyer.  There are 3 types of sanctions:

1) Criminal Contempt – Criminal Contempt is intended to preserve the Court’s authority by punishing past misconduct through imposition of a fixed sanction where there is no opportunity or need for the Court to compel the individual or entity’s compliance with its order.  The intent of the person or entity must be willful.  Criminal Contempt sanctions could include a jail term of up to 93 days per single Contempt act and/or fines up to $7500 per single act of contemt , that are intended to punish the behavior.
2) Civil Contempt – Sanctions for civil contempt are coercive and remedial in nature.  They are intended to compel compliance with a Court’s directives by imposing a conditional sanction until the individual or entity complies or no longer has a duty to comply.  The intent of the person or entity can be either wilfull or unwillful.  Civil Contempt sanctions typically include a fine or a jail term that ends when the offending behavior ends, and money damages may be awarded to the injured party.  In Civil Contempt proceedings, the person or entity in Contempt of Court must be given the opportunity to purge himself, herself, or itself of the contempt by complying with the conditions set by the Court to remedy the situation.
3) Actual Damages – In cases where actual damage is shown, the Court may order compensatory relief for a party.
The standard of proof for Criminal Contempt is that it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual engaged in a willful disregard or disobedience of the authority or orders of the Court.  The standard of proof for Civil Contempt is usually clear and unequivocal evidence.
Michigan Compiled Law 600.1701 gives the Court broad powers as it relates to Contempt of Court.  However, Courts must exercise the Contempt powers with restraint, and do so only when the contempt is clearly and unequivocally shown.  CIrcuit Court Referees may conduct Contempt Proceedings but may not issue contempt orders.  The Court may issue its Contempt powers only when it has the jurisdiction to do so.
Direct Contempt of Court occurs in the Court’s immediate view and presence. If the act occurs in the Judge’s presence, and the Judge has personal knowledge of the facts, Contempt can be found summarily without further hearing.
Indirect Contempt occurs outside the immediate view and presence of the Court.  Such contempt may not be punished summarliy but only after the proof of the facts charged have been made by affidavit or other method. For indirect Contempt of Court a separate public hearing must be held.  In all cases of indirect Contempt of Court, proper notice of the charges, a reasonable chance to prepare a defense or explanation, and the basic requirements of due process (to call witnesses, cross examine witnesses, to testify or remain silent, etc.) are nececessary.  If there is a chance of incarceration, the person is entitled to a lawyer.
Behavior or Actions that Can Lead to Contempt of Court:
1) Failure of a witness to appear as ordered by subpoena
2) Failure of a witness to testify as ordered by subpoena
3) Juror misconduct – Failing to appear without being excused when summoned as a juror, or failing to answer questionares could be construed as contempt.
4) Violation of a Court Order for a nuisance or otherwise.
5) Failure to Pay a Money Judgment – there are limitations to this.
6) Failure to Pay Child or Spousal Support
7) Violating a Parenting Time provision
8) Violation of a Personal Protection Order – PPO
10) Disruptive behavior in Court
11) Filing False Pleadings and Documents
12) Violation of Discovery Orders in Civil Cases
13) Interfering with a Witness or Obstructing Justice
14) Fiduciaries who violate Court Orders
15) Attorney conduct – Failing to appear at court dates, misbehavior, or disobedience of any process of lawful order of a Judge all could constitute contempt.
Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able – just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.
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