The Texas Supreme Court defines contempt as “disobedience to or disrespect of a court by acting in opposition to its authority.” Basically, you did something inside or outside of a courtroom to disobey or disrespect a judge and obstruct the proper administration of justice. So what is the best way to avoid being held in contempt of court?
The straightforward answer may be simply to do what the judge says. But there is the occasional instance where a party in a case is unaware they have done anything wrong. So what do you do then?
First thing’s first: More about contempt of court
There are two types of contempt proceedings – criminal proceedings and civil proceedings. Within these proceedings, you can either be held in direct contempt or indirect contempt.
With direct contempt of court, you are physically in the courtroom as a party in the case, a witness, a juror, an attorney, or a spectator, and you engage in behavior that the judge deems to constitute contempt.
This can include:
- Failing to rise upon the judge’s entrance into the courtroom
- Getting into a shouting match with the opposing lawyer or party in the case
- Intimidating other parties in the case with gestures or threats
- Defiantly overstepping your bounds with the judge
- Lying on the stand
- Swearing or cursing to the point where the proceedings are interrupted
- Showing up to court legally intoxicated
Indirect contempt of court happens outside the court’s presence. This can include:
- Refusing to obey a child support order
- Failing to attend a hearing or trial
- Attempting to bribe an attorney or prospective jurors
- Withholding evidence
- Lying in a deposition
- Improper communication with jurors
- Refusing to turn over subpoenaed evidence
Click here to read more about civil and criminal contempt of court and which applies in a specific circumstance.
How to avoid being held in contempt of court
- Do what the court tells you to do — If you have been ordered to pay child support or you have evidence that must be submitted to the court, you must adhere to these expectations. That said, it is understandable if even the simplest requests appear confusing. A good rule of thumb is to consult with your attorney and have them take the lead so that you always comply with time-sensitive requests and are aware of any specific deadlines.
- Show up to all court appearances — If you are required to appear in court for a hearing or trial, do it. Failure to show up could have serious repercussions, including being held in contempt of court.
- Be respectful — Getting into a shouting match in the middle of court, talking back to a judge, lying, and swearing are unbecoming of any party in a case. We talk all the time about maintaining your composure in court. Doing so not only helps you avoid being held in contempt in court, but it can also improve your chances of winning the case.
- Request a modification — One of the best ways to avoid being held in contempt of court is to know your situation and limitations. If you know that you will struggle to comply with the terms of a court order or judgment, respectfully seek a modification to change the terms of the court order. This tells the judge that you are willing to comply but need additional assistance to ensure that happens.
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Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC, a call if you have any further questions regarding this or any other issue. Our staff is always available. Give us a call today! For more information about Brett A Nelson, click here.
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Source: Nelson Law Group