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    What is contempt of court?

    Date: 08.20.09 | by Judge Tom.

    Clifton Williams, 33, of Illinois found out in July, 2009 when he was in court for his cousin’s sentencing on a drug charge. He let out what was described as a loud yawn or yawn-like sound.


    Photo by Bloomsberrie

    Either way, the judge found him in contempt of court and sentenced him to six months in jail. After three weeks, he was released and the judge explained that Williams was in contempt for making a noise “that was offensive to the court.”

    What exactly does “contempt of court” mean?  When a person disregards a court order away from the court, it is called indirect contempt. This includes failing to pay child support, violating a visitation order, or ignoring a subpoena to appear in court. Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court such as when a person yells at the judge or causes a scene that distracts the jury or trial.

    The penalties for contempt of court include fines or jail. If you’re incarcerated for indirect contempt, you may be released once you’ve paid the back support or fine. In other words, you hold the keys to your jail cell. The court will usually set a review hearing every thirty days. If you’re found in direct contempt you will pay the fine or serve the court-ordered time in jail, unless released earlier by the court.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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