What is Contempt of Court?


Contempt Charge Lawyer in Toms River, New Jersey

Perhaps you know that you should obey a court order, but did you know that New Jersey considers it crime if you violate a court order? Fewer people are aware of the mechanisms the New Jersey court has to compel individuals to follow its orders. In many cases, disobeying a court order can lead to criminal charges for contempt of court. If you have been arrested and charged with contempt, it is extraordinarily important that you have an effective defense. In order to disprove the allegations against you, it is highly advisable to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the law and can argue in court on your behalf. Our team of criminal defense lawyers in Ocean County has extensive experience handling criminal and domestic violence cases for clients throughout the region, including in Brick, Manchester, Berkeley Township, Lakehurst, Stafford Township, Toms River, and Ocean Township. For more information about your contempt charges and how we can help with your particular case, call our local Point Pleasant office at (848) 238-2100.

Charged with Contempt of Court in Ocean County NJ

New Jersey statute NJSA 2C:29-9 states that it is a criminal offense for a person to purposely or knowingly disobey a court order or obstruct, hinder, or impede the effectuation of a court order. This applies to both judicial and protective orders. The statute also criminalizes any purposeful or knowing obstruction, hindrance, or impeding of a court’s exercise of jurisdiction over any person, thing, or controversy before the court or an administrative body or investigative entity.

Criminal contempt of court can be carried out either directly or indirectly. Direct criminal contempt typically results from disobeying a court order or disrupting court proceedings in front of the judge. Loudly talking on your cell phone during court proceedings and refusing to turn the phone off or hand it to the bailiff upon request, for example, could result in a direct criminal contempt charge. More generally, any willful or knowing actions that disrupt or otherwise interfere with ongoing court proceedings in front of a sitting judge can result in your being found in contempt of court in very short order.

Criminal contempt of court does not have to take place directly in front of the judge. It can also be done indirectly. In the context of courtroom proceedings, if a defendant or jurors are ordered not to speak with witnesses, other parties, or the attorneys in a case, and if a defendant or juror is caught speaking to someone or trying to conceal such communications from the judge, they can also face contempt of court charges. Contempt proceedings can further result from failing to follow court orders outside of a trial or courtroom context. For example, failure to comply with a restraining order, pay child support, or allow another parent or guardian to visit a child under a court ordered child custody arrangement can result in criminal contempt of court proceedings.

Sentencing for Contempt Charges in New Jersey

Contempt of court can be charged as either a disorderly persons offense or as an indictable offense in New Jersey, which basically means you can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor or an indictable crime. The degree of contempt charge and potential penalties that you face depend on the facts of your case. For example, if you violated a court order through the commission of a separate crime or by disregarding a restraining order issued in certain domestic violence cases, you may be charged with a fourth degree crime. Other less serious contempt of court incidents may be charged as disorderly persons offenses.

The penalties for fourth degree contempt of court can include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in prison. You may also be subject to a long term of probation, and your record will reflect a conviction for an indictable offense, which can have serious implications for your subsequent job searches. If you are convicted of a disorderly persons contempt offense, you may face up to 6 in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, in addition to other potential penalties.

Need a Local Ocean TWP Contempt Defense Attorney

Being charged with contempt of court means you are facing serious accusations, in addition to a criminal record and a variety of other harsh punishments. With this is mind, you should contact an attorney as soon as you find out about the contempt charge. An Ocean County criminal defense lawyer at William Proetta Criminal Law is available immediately to assist you, so call (848) 238-2100 for a free consultation now.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.