Criminal Contempt in North Carolina

by | Oct 22, 2019 | Blog Posts, NC Criminal Defense | 0 comments

There are two types of contempt in North Carolina – criminal contempt and civil contempt. This blog will focus on criminal contempt in North Carolina. To read about civil contempt in North Carolina, click here.

What is Contempt?

Contempt is generally considered to be an individual’s willful disobedience of a court order. The purpose of a civil contempt order is to promote compliance with the court order. The purpose of a criminal contempt order is to punish certain types of behavior.

On What Grounds is an Order for Criminal Contempt Issued?

N.C.G.S. § 5A-11 provides multiple instances of what is considered to be criminal contempt.

  • Willful behavior committed during the sitting of a court and directly tending to interrupt its proceedings.
  • Willful behavior committed during the sitting of a court in its immediate view and presence and directly tending to impair the respect due its authority.
  • Willful disobedience of, resistance to, or interference with a court’s lawful process, order, directive, or instruction or its execution.
  • Willful refusal to be sworn or affirmed as a witness, or, when so sworn or affirmed, willful refusal to answer any legal and proper question when the refusal is not legally justified. (click here to learn about perjury, which is a related criminal charge).
  • Willful publication of a report of the proceedings in a court that is grossly inaccurate and presents a clear and present danger of imminent and serious threat to the administration of justice, made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false. No person, however, may be punished for publishing a truthful report of proceedings in a court.
  • Willful or grossly negligent failure by an officer of the court to perform his duties in an official transaction.
  • Willful or grossly negligent failure to comply with schedules and practices of the court resulting in substantial interference with the business of the court.
  • Willful refusal to testify or produce other information upon the order of a judge acting pursuant to Article 61 of Chapter 15A, Granting of Immunity to Witnesses.
  • Willful communication with a juror in an improper attempt to influence his deliberations.
  • Willful refusal by a defendant to comply with a condition of probation.
  • Willful refusal to accept post-release supervision or to comply with the terms of post-release supervision by a prisoner whose offense requiring post-release supervision is a reportable conviction subject to the registration requirement of Article 27A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes (Sex Offense Registry). For purposes of this subdivision, “willful refusal to accept post-release supervision or to comply with the terms of post-release supervision” includes, but is not limited to, knowingly violating the terms of post-release supervision in order to be returned to prison to serve out the remainder of the supervisee’s sentence.
  • Any other act or omission specified elsewhere in the General Statutes of North Carolina as grounds for criminal contempt.

Notice a trend here? Every order of criminal contempt is issued by the court for a willful act by an individual who disrupts, disrespects, disobeys, or refuses to comply with a court order or proceeding.

What Happens If I am Found to Be in Contempt of a Criminal Order?

According to N.C.G.S. § 5A-12, a person found to be in criminal contempt can be subject to any and/or all of the following:

  • Censure
  • Imprisonment up to 6 months
  • A fine not to exceed $500.00


If you have been charged with a crime in North or South Carolina, contact us to discuss your options.


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