Elements of Civil Contempt in Oakland



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What Are the Elements of Civil Contempt in Oakland?


You may have heard the phrase on T.V. or in movies, but do you know what contempt of court is? You commit contempt of court when you willfully disobey a court order or disrupt a court proceeding.

Suppose your actions or inactions are in violation of a court order. That is considered civil contempt. On the other hand, if you act in a way that is disrespectful to the court, you may be held in criminal contempt.

It is considered direct contempt if it occurs in the judge’s presence. If it doesn’t, it’s indirect contempt. That usually occurs outside the court, such as when one party fails to fulfill its obligations.

For example, failing to comply with child support orders is considered one of the most common contempt actions. However, other behaviors can also result in contempt proceedings.

Contempt law is a field of law that can be hard to understand. A criminal lawyer in Oakland may be able to help.

Facing an Oakland Civil Contempt Charge


There may be additional requirements when a court decides on a particular case. These requirements have to be met to avoid consequences and penalties. You risk being held in contempt when the court’s order is not followed.

A contempt proceeding can be initiated because of a variety of actions. These actions can include:

  • Violating a restraining order

  • Parenting time denial

  • Not showing up for a court hearing

  • Not complying with the child visitation schedule ordered by the court

  • Not paying child support

  • Any other court order disobedience

What Are the Elements of Oakland Civil Contempt?


The essential elements of contempt of court include a willful violation of a clear and specific order. For a contempt charge to stand, the petitioning party must prove all the contempt elements.

It has to be proven that:

  • A valid order existed

  • The alleged contemnor knew about it

  • They willfully violated it

In some cases, it also has to be proven that an ability to comply with the order existed.

Those held in civil contempt typically have to be informed of contempt sanctions. Although they may have an opportunity to be heard, they are usually not guaranteed a jury trial. The civil contempt of court doesn’t have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sanctions in a civil contempt proceeding can be indefinite. They can last until the underlying case is over. But, sanctions can also last until the individual complies with the court’s order.


Can You Go to Jail for Civil Contempt?

The penalty for civil contempt in California can include a fine and possible jail time. But, in civil contempt court proceedings, the court’s goal is not to punish the individual. In most cases, the intention is to make the individual obey an order. But not all cases are the same.

Disobeying civil court orders can carry hefty penalties. These orders are typically in family law cases. The potential consequences of disobeying an order can include up to several days in jail and a $1,000 fine per count.

Suppose someone is accused of failing to pay child support for 12 months. In that case, they could face up to 5 days in jail. They may be required to pay $1,000 per month failed to pay. Potentially, they could spend 60 days in jail and pay $12,000 in fines.

Filing a Motion of Contempt in Oakland?


In CA family law cases, a contempt proceeding is initiated by filing an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt with the court.

The case’s facts have to be outlined. It should include the type of order that was violated and how and when the order was violated.

The person alleged to be in contempt is called the city. They must be notified of the charge and the time and place for the court hearing.

Papers alone are often not enough to prove a contempt charge. The city is entitled to a hearing. They may also be allowed to testify, present evidence, and call in witnesses if needed. Upon the hearing, the court will decide on a contempt order.

As with any proceeding, contempt actions have a statute of limitations in California criminal and civil cases. In other words, you may have limited time to file a motion of contempt. In California, you have two or three years for commencing a contempt action. The time limit depends on the alleged contempt. 

Is There a Difference Between Civil and Criminal Contempt?


Civil contempt refers to willful disobeying a court order. Criminal contempt attacks or undermines the court’s authority. It is meant to disrespect the court’s dignity and integrity. Therefore, the primary purpose of civil contempt is to persuade you to do the action the court wants you to do. The goal of criminal contempt is to penalize you for disobedience and demonstrate the court’s authority.

The Elements of criminal contempt include:

  1. A person or a misbehavior
  2. Presence of the court
  3. Obstruction of the administration of justice
  4. The required degree of criminal intent

Criminal contempt charges have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the same as any other criminal charge.


Criminal Contempt of Court

Criminal contempt of court can include:

  • Disrupting the court proceeding by engaging in loud and rude acts
  • Refusing to answer significant questions during a court proceeding
  • Violating a protective order with a prior stalking conviction
  • Disobeying court orders
  • Having a firearm in your possession if a court order forbids it
  • Violating a restraining order that involves domestic violence

In a criminal context, contempt of court in California is charged under section 166 of the Penal Code. Criminal contempt is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in most cases. Penalties can include spending up to six months in county jail and paying a fine of up to $1,000. Several years of informal probation can also be included.

Suppose the act of contempt of court is more severe, and penalties increase. They can range from one year in county jail to three years of imprisonment.


How Can an Attorney Help?


Prosecuting and defending contempt of court may be very complicated. Many elements have to be proven. That’s why this is something individuals should refrain from attempting to do on their own.

If you need more information on contempt orders, contact the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson. We can provide the necessary resources to help you with your case. We also offer representation in Oakland, CA, and San Francisco Bay area.