It is obvious that committing a crime in North Carolina can get you thrown in jail, but people often don’t realize that you can end up spending a significant amount of time in jail for violating court orders, even if they arose from a civil case. This is due to the often mentioned, but rarely understood, term known as contempt of court.
Requirements of Contempt of Court
There are two types of contempt; civil contempt and criminal contempt, these have two different standards and two different sets of consequences. There are two different types of contempt because they serve two different goals and are brought about for two different reasons.
Civil contempt of court is brought about as a method to get a person to comply with a court order. A civil contempt action is proper when someone fails to comply with a court order, if;
- That order remains in force,
- The purpose of that order may still be served by compliance of that order;
- The non-compliance of the order is willful; and
- The person who is directed to comply with order can comply or can at least make reasonable steps to ensure that compliance occurs.
The punishment for civil contempt of court is imprisonment for as long as the contempt continues, and does not have a statutory limit. For example, if someone is found in civil contempt for not paying child support, they can remain in jail until they have paid those funds. Compliance is technically the only way to get out of jail.
Criminal contempt of court is brought about as a punishment. It is the consequence of certain violations, described in North Carolina General Statute G.S. 5A-11, A few examples would be:
- Willful behavior committed during the sitting of a court and directly tending to interrupt the proceedings
- Willful disobedience of, resistance to, or interference with a court’s lawful process, order, directive or instruction or its execution
- Willful or grossly negligent failure to comply with schedules and practices of court resulting in substantial interference with the business of the court
- Willful refusal to testify or produce other information upon order of a judge
- Willful communication with a juror in an improper attempt to influence his or her deliberations.
- Willful refusal to comply with a condition of probation
Punishment for Criminal Contempt in North Carolina includes imprisonment for up to 30 days, and fines of up to $500.
As you can probably discern from the information, civil contempt is used to get you to comply, while criminal contempt is used to punish you for something you already did. Both versions can result in jail time and, therefore, it would be in someone’s best interest to hire a lawyer. At Gilles Law, we handle contempt of court as well as various criminal charges. Contact us if you are in need of criminal defense attorneys serving the Charlotte area.