Understanding Criminal Contempt of Court in Virginia:
A Comprehensive Guide

Explore the intricacies of Criminal Contempt of Court in Virginia with Scrofano Law PC. Learn about its definition, legal processes, and how our experienced VA criminal lawyers can assist you.

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The Consequences of Violating or Ignoring the Court’s Authority

The failure to appear before a Virginia Court and disobedience to a lawful court order are two common ways a person may be charged with contempt. Additionally, a violation of a protective order is considered contempt and can result in punishment of the offender.

If you or a loved one is facing this dilemma, it is wise to contact criminal contempt lawyers who can assist you. Whether you are facing criminal or civil contempt, you are facing a serious charge that could have legal consequences and penalties.

In Northern Virginia, Scrofano Law PC has extensive experience representing clients facing criminal charges, including criminal contempt of court in Virginia.

What Is a Criminal Contempt of Court?

Contempt is considered criminal if the purpose of imposing a sanction is to punish, preserve, or restore order in, or respect for, the court. See State ex rel. Robinson v. Michael.

Simply put, criminal contempt punishes a contemner (the person found to be in contempt) because of one or more past violations of a court order. On the other hand, contempt is civil if the purpose is to ensure that a court order is complied with.

According to the Code of Virginia, the courts and judges may punish the following behaviors for contempt of court:

  1. Misbehavior while in the court’s presence, which resulted in obstruction or interruption of the administration of justice;
  2. Violence or threatening a judge or officer of the court, including a juror, a witness, or a party going to, attending, or returning from the court, with respect to any act or proceeding in such court;
  3. Addressing the court or the judge with vile, contemptuous, or insulting language;
  4. An officer of the court misbehaving while in their official character;
  5. Disobedience or resistance to a lawful process or order of the court committed by an officer of the court, juror, witness, or any other person;
  6. Willful failure to appear before any court or judicial officer as required after having been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense or released on a summons.

Types of Criminal Contempt

The court may punish two types of contempt: direct and indirect contempt.

  • Direct Contempt: This is when the act of disobedience is committed in the presence of the court or so near the court so as to obstruct the administration of justice. The court may immediately address direct criminal contempt in a summary proceeding.

  • Indirect Contempt: This is when the contemptuous behavior is done outside the courtroom. For indirect contempt proceedings, notice and hearing requirements should be observed.

Legal Consequences of Criminal Contempt in Virginia

A judge may punish a person for contempt with a fine of up to $250 and imprisonment of 10 days. A person cited for contempt can appeal the court’s fine or sentence.

A person criminally charged with contempt possesses the constitutional rights afforded to criminal defendants. These include the right to counsel, a speedy trial, and a trial by an impartial jury. In addition, the contempt of court must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, similar to the burden of proof required in all criminal cases.

The Legal Process for Criminal Contempt Cases

Summary Contempt Proceeding

If the offender’s act constitutes direct contempt, the judge can punish the offender immediately. According to § 18.2-458 of the Virginia Code, a district court judge can punish summarily for contempt. The penalty for summary adjudication should be up to a $250 fine or up to 10 days of imprisonment.

Disposition Upon Notice and Hearing

For indirect contempt, a hearing for the case has to be scheduled at a particular place and time. The person charged receives a notice to give them reasonable time to prepare their defense. The notice should:

  • State the essential facts constituting the criminal contempt charge, including the description of the person’s behavior;

  • Be given orally by the judge in open court in the presence of the person charged;

  • Be alternatively given on the application of the prosecutor or an attorney appointed by the court by a show cause order or an order of arrest.

In indirect contempt proceedings, the person charged shall be tried by a jury. They can also post bail.

If a person is found to be in contempt and is sentenced to a fine or imprisonment, they can appeal the decision from the circuit court of the county or city that pronounced the judgment.

Defending Against Criminal Contempt Charges

If you are charged with criminal contempt, you have the right to be represented by counsel. Criminal contempt can result in fines, imprisonment, or both fines and imprisonment. Consulting with a criminal contempt lawyer can help you understand the consequences of a conviction and help you build a defense against the charges.

An experienced lawyer can review your case and help you determine a suitable defense strategy. Criminal contempt lawyers can also assist in filing the necessary motions and preparing legal documents on matters related to your case. For instance, if you are accused of violating a civil protection order (CPO), you may be charged with contempt of court.

Filing a civil protection order in DC is common for victims of domestic violence. If CPO is granted, the defendant must stay away from the victim or petitioner. Knowingly violating a CPO constitutes contempt. Even a simple act of sending a text message or calling the victim can cause the person to be imprisoned.

Are you or a loved one facing contempt charges? Navigating the legal system on your own can be complicated, and the consequences of a conviction can be severe. The trusted and experienced criminal defense attorneys at Scrofano Law PC are here to help.

Criminal Contempt? Contact Scrofano Law PC Today!

The criminal defense lawyers of Scrofano Law PC can assist you in determining the most appropriate course to resolve the charges against you. With over 25 years of experience in criminal litigation, our team of lawyers will advocate for your rights and assist you in navigating the charges against you.

At Scrofano Law PC, we help our clients solve their problems based on their unique circumstances. Our criminal defense attorneys will attend to your needs and ask detailed questions about your legal problem. We are passionate about our clients’ causes and make them our top priority.

If you are facing a legal dilemma, whether a criminal contempt case or any other criminal charges, contact Scrofano Law PC immediately.

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