You’ve probably heard the term “contempt of court” on television or in movies, but it’s important to know that it’s not simply something found in courtroom dramas. Contempt of court is a real-world action — and it’s not a good thing if it happens to you.
Below, you’ll find what you need to know about contempt of court, both what it is and what can happen if you are found in contempt in the state of Colorado.
Contempt of Court: What Is It?
In Colorado, there are two ways that you can be held in contempt of court. If you knowingly violate a judicial order or if you obstruct justice by behaving in a disruptive manner in court.
When a judge issues a valid court order, you are expected to abide by it. Defying it deliberately is called civil contempt. Common ways you can be held in civil contempt are by violating court orders such as:
- Order to pay child support
- Not adhering to child custody judgments
- Violating protection or restraining orders
- Ignoring subpoenas
- Not showing up for your court date
- Not adhering to divorce decrees
Remember, you have to knowingly violate a judicial order in order to be held in contempt. If you were unaware of demands in an order, then you can’t be held in contempt for violating it.
Types of Contempt in Colorado Courts
This is the contempt of court charge that plays out in movies and on television a lot. It is any action that can interfere significantly with the court and its processes, such as:
- Speaking out of turn at a court hearing
- Refusing to answer questions from a grand jury
- Using a smartphone while in court
When a judge issues a contempt order based on this type of conduct, it has to be very specific about what was done that was disruptive.
Direct and Indirect Contempt
Aside from the two types of contempt mentioned above, you can also be found in contempt of court either directly or indirectly.
Direct contempt is something that happens in front of the judge, usually — but not always — disruptive behavior of some sort as described above. In these situations, the judge normally issues punishments quickly and without a hearing, simply having it noted on the court record.
Indirect contempt of court occurs outside the judge’s presence. That doesn’t mean it necessarily happens outside of the courtroom, but it does occur in such a way as the judge doesn’t directly see or hear it. Cases of indirect contempt require a court hearing before penalties are issued.
Penalties for Contempt of Court in Colorado
The judge has a lot of discretion when it comes to penalties for contempt, but they are required to state whether a penalty is punitive or remedial.
These are normally ordered to punish poor behavior that was willful. In general, punitive penalties include jail time (up to six months), fines, and any other punitive sanctions the judge sees fit.
For remedial contempt, the judge simply seeks to enforce the original court order that was violated and bring the offending party into compliance. If the contempt charge is not cleared by following the order, then the judge can impose fines, make the parties in question pay court costs, and require them to pay attorney fees for the opposing parties.
Understanding what is required of you in court and when a judge issues an order is important so that it’s not violated.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.