What Are the Consequences of Contempt of Court in Child Custody?
When found in contempt of court, one risks imprisonment or paying a fine, or both.
Table of Contents
Does contempt of court go on your record? This is a question many people ask before undergoing a background check.
Disobedience to or failure to respect a court of law, its proceedings, and its officers amounts to contempt of court, but in general, contempt of court does not appear on a person’s record.1
However, sometimes it can.
The key is knowing under what circumstances.
Do this first: To find out the answer to “does contempt of court go on your record,” run a criminal history search on yourself to find out exactly what shows up on a background check. This will provide an immediate answer.
Then review the following guide explaining when contempt of court goes on your record, and when it won’t.
In the United States, acts of contempt of court are divided into criminal or civil and indirect or direct. A person can be held in criminal or direct contempt when they directly interfere with court proceedings, like shouting at the judge.
Civil or indirect contempt happens when a person deliberately fails to obey court orders, like failure to provide child support.
The only notable existence of contempt of court charge on that person’s record is computer documentation of a bench warrant issued by a judge in a civil case.
But, every state is different concerning what shows up on a background check, so this guide outlines the state laws that can make a contempt charge show up on your record.
All states have specific laws and rules about what constitutes contempt of court, and what dictates that answer to “does contempt of court go on your record?”
The following table outlines state law about contempt and the consequences. Jail time, misdemeanors, and other criminal charges will appear on a person’s record, but in general, a civil contempt charge won’t.
|State Law and Contempt Statutes
|California Penal Code 166 PC
|Insolent behavior, disorderly, or contemptuous during a court session
|Custody in a county jail for up to 6 months, or $1000 fine, or both
|Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 33. Contempt
|Refusal, willful, and continuing failure to comply with a court’s subpoena, lawful writ, order, processes, command, or rule.
|A fine, not less than $500 nor more than $75000, or imprisonment of not more than a year or both.
|Alaska Statutes Title 9. Code of Civil Procedure 09.50.020
|Contemptuous, insolent, or disorderly behavior toward a judge while tending to impair the authority or holding the court during its proceedings
|Guilty of class A misdemeanor, a fine of up to $5,000
|Arizona law 12-861
|Disrupting court proceedings, failure to pay child support, and disrespecting the judicial process or insulting a judge,
|Misdemeanor charges as punishment. A fine of $500
|Arkansas Code 16-10-108
|Contemptuous, insolent, and disorderly behavior committed during, in the immediate presence and view of a court proceeding, and directly intending to interrupt its proceedings.
|Class C misdemeanor.
|Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 107(a)
|Violating a court order, and willfully disrupting the court’s processes and ability to conduct its duties.
|6 months of jail time, fines, or both.
|Delaware code 10(96)
|Any resistance or disobedience to a court’s lawful writ, rule, order, or process
|A fine not exceeding $100, or imprisonment not exceeding 170 days
|Florida Statute 38.22-23
|Refusal to obey legal decree, mandate, or order, given or made by a court.
|A maximum of a year in county jail
|Georgia Code § 15-1-4
|Intentional or willful violation of a court order
|Fines not surpassing $1,000, or jail time of not more than 20 days, or both.
|Hawaii revised statutes §710-1077
|Wilfully neglecting, violating, or refusing to perform or obey any lawful court order
|Six months imprisonment or a maximum fine of $ 1,000.
|ID Code § 44-710-711
Not following or complying with court orders. Insolent, disorderly, or contemptuous behavior committed during a court proceeding.
|A fine not surpassing $5,000, or a maximum of 5 days in prison, or both.
|Illinois public act 101-440
|Any act that was done to embarrass, obstruct, derogate, or impede the court or bring it to disrepute.
|A fine not surpassing $500, a jail term of not more than 180 days, or both
|Direct Criminal Contempt – Statute I.C. § 34-47-2
|Willfulness or deliberate intention to disrupt the court proceedings, disobey a lawful order and provide an inaccurate or false report in court.
|Imprisonment of not more than 6 months, a fine of or both.
|Iowa Code 598.23(a)
|Willfully disobeying a court decree or order
|Jail term of up to 30 days in a county jail for each contempt
|Kansas Statutes Annotated (KSA), Chapter 60—Civil Procedure
|Neglecting or refusing to perform a judgment or order of a court other than
|Kentucky Statutes 403.763
|Neglecting to make due or return a subpoena, and disobeying court summons and orders
|Class A misdemeanor
|Louisiana Revised Statutes Tit. 13, § 4611
|Willfully or purposefully deceiving, or disobeying a court judgment or order.
|Imprisonment of not more than6 months, or a fine not exceeding $500, or both
|Title 14, §3136: Contempt – Maine Legislature
|Willfully or purposefully deceiving, or disobeying a court judgment or order.
|A reasonable fine not exceeding $500
|Maryland Rules §1–202
|Willfully and intentionally violating a court order
|A fine, imprisonment, or both
|Massachusetts criminal Procedure Rule 43
|Purposefully and willfully violating a court order or judgment
|A fine of $2,000, or imprisonment of not more than 3 months, or both.
|Michigan Laws 600.1715
|Willful omission, act, or statement that impairs or impedes the authority or functioning of the court.
|A fine not exceeding $7,500, or imprisonment of not more than 93 days, or both
|Minnesota Ch. 588 MN Statutes
|A judge’s decision that a person has gone contrary to a court order they knew existed and they did so with ill intentions.
|Imprisonment in a working farm, workhouse, or county jail for not more than 6 months, a fine not exceeding $250, or both
|2010 Mississippi Code 95-3-19
|Failing to follow a court judgment or order
|A fine exceeding $2,00 and not more than $1,000, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.
|Revised Statutes of Missouri, RSMo Section 476.110
|Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior committed during a court’s session, in its immediate view and presence, and directly tending to disrupt or undermine its authority
|A court may hold someone in contempt for “willful disobedience of any process or order lawfully issued or made by it,” according to Missouri law. Penalties can include a fine, time in county jail, or both.
|MCA Contents 3-1-501
|disorderly, disdainful, or arrogant behavior toward the judge whilst court is in session, with the intent to disrupt the proper course of a trial or other judicial proceeding;
(a) a breach of the rules, boisterous behavior, or violent interruption likely to disrupt the proper conduct of a court hearing or other judicial proceeding;
(c) willful neglect or breach of duty by a lawyer, counsel, clerk, deputies, coroner, or other person designated or voted into office to conduct judicial or ministerial services;
(d) deception or abuse of the court’s procedure or litigation by a party to an action or special proceeding;
|A person convicted of criminal contempt shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than 6 months, or both.
|29-3307 – Nebraska Legislature
|Requesting that the judge hold the person who is disobeying the court order in contempt.
If the judge determines that the person willfully disobeyed the court order, the person can be imprisoned until he or she has followed a plan to “purge” himself or herself of the contempt.
|Sections 29-3301 to 29-3307 provide that the penalty for contempt of court shall not exceed thirty days in county jail.
|Disobeying a court order or engaging in certain other illegal behaviors.
|In Nevada, criminal contempt is a misdemeanor. The maximum criminal penalty is six months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine. Pretending to be an attorney or a court officer, or acting in that capacity without authority.
|New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 544:40 – Contempt, Penalty.
|Disobeying a court’s judgment, decree, direction, order, or other processes, or failing to comply with an undertaking given to the court.
To be considered in contempt of court, there must be disobedience of a valid order. Orders include all types of judgments and orders, including final, preliminary, ex parte, and contempt orders.
|If a party is found guilty of contempt under the provisions of this RSA 544, he or she will be charged with a misdemeanor if a natural person or a felony if any other person.
|NJ Rev Stat § 2A:10-5 (2013)
|When a person intentionally violates court order, acts inappropriately in the courtroom, or disrespects the judge while the court is in session, he or she is in contempt of court.
|In New Jersey, contempt of court is typically charged as a disorderly person’s offense, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
|N.M. R. Civ. P. Dist. Ct. 1-093
|Contempt” or “contemptuous conduct” includes, but is not limited to, gross misconduct, insolent actions, or a public disorder, loudness, or other disturbance, if such behavior impedes or hinders the judicial process or tends to undermine the court’s authority.
|Criminal contempt is punishable by fines, jail time, or both
|New York Penal Code § 215.50-51
|Any action (or lack thereof) that disregards the court’s authority, disrupts the court or obstructs the court’s ability to function.
|Except as served in subsets (2), (3), and (4), the reprimand for a contempt specified in section seven hundred fifty maybe a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment in the county jail where the court is sitting for up to thirty days, or both, at the discretion of the court.
|G.S. 5A-21 Page 1 Article 2. Civil Contempt. § 5A-21.
|Willful unwillingness to take the stand or yield other information on a judge’s order. Willful interaction with a juror in an inappropriate attempt to manipulate his or her decision-making. Willful failure to comply with a probation condition.
|Criminal contempt is subject to punishment by censure (public reprimand), a fine of up to $500, and 30 days in jail.
|North Dakota Century Code t27c10
|Intentional obstruction of justice in the presence of the court that interrupts the court hearing or the administration of justice, or that diminishes the court’s respect
|Any person who commits contempt of court may be fined and/or imprisoned by the judge.
|Misbehavior in or near the presence of a court or judge that obstructs the administration of justice
|First offense – a fine of up to $250.00 and/or a definite term of a prison term of up to thirty days, or both. b. Second offense – a fine of up to $500.00 and/or a definite term of prison sentences of up to sixty days, or both.
|Oklahoma Statutes, 21.19 .565-566
|Direct contempt occurs when a person intentionally interferes with the judicial process while the judge is present. Indirect contempt occurs when a person willfully disregards or disobeys a court order while the judge is not present.
|Unless otherwise provided by law, a form of justice for direct or indirect contempt shall be a fine of not more than $500.00 or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six (6) months, or both, at the court’s discretion.
|ORS 33.015 to 33.155
|Disobeying a court order.
|A fine of up to $500 or 1% of the accused’s income earned, whichever is greater. (b) Loss of any proceeds or profits derived from the contempt. (c) Confinement for a maximum of six months.
|PAG Title 42
|The act of violating (disobeying) a court’s order. A parent may be found in violation or contempt of a custody order if they engage in one of the following behaviors: restricting visitation, meddling with communication, and/or denying visiting rights due to non-payment of child maintenance.
|The penalty for contempt specified in subsection (a)(1) or (3) is a fine of no more than $100 or imprisonment for no more than 30 days or both. The penalty for contempt specified in subsection (a)(2) is a fine of not more than $100.
|R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-9-21
|Criminal contempt occurs when a person acts in a way that undermines the authority of the court, whereas civil contempt occurs when someone acts disobediently toward the court.
|Any person found guilty shall be punished by a fine of a minimum of $50.00, and a maximum of $100.00, as well as jail terms in adult correctional facilities for a minimum of three (3) months, and a maximum of six (6) months.
|SC Code 14-1-50 – South Carolina Legislature
|Anyone may be held in direct contempt if his or her conduct disrupts judicial proceedings, shows disrespect for the court, or impedes the parties or witnesses.
|(1) a year in prison, (2) a $1,500 fine, and/or (c) a maximum of 300 hours of community service
|Codified Law 23A-38-2 | South Dakota Legislature
|If any party, person, party, or witness disobeys a duly served order of the judge or referee, the judge may punish such person, party, or witness as for contempt.
|The defendant is entitled to a jury trial. Following a verdict or finding of guilt, the court must issue an order determining the punishment. Contempt charged under this section is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
|Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-9-102(3)
|According to Tennessee Code Annotated 29-9-102(3), a person who willfully disobeys “any lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command” of a court is in contempt of court.
|Criminal contempt is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both. For each violation, the maximum period of confinement is 10 days and a fine of $50. Each violation of the court order is treated as a separate offense, and the court has the authority to sentence a person to consecutive sentences.
|GOVERNMENT CODE CHAPTER 21. GENERAL PROVISIONS
|Contempt is defined by the Texas Supreme Court as “disobedience to or disrespect for a court by acting in opposition to its authority.”
|Contempt of a court other than a justice court or municipal court is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or confinement in the county jail for up to six months, or both such a fine and confinement in jail.
|78B-6-310. Contempt — Action by the court.
|Any act that is disrespectful to the court or fails to follow its rules or orders.
|The court must decide whether the person being prosecuted is guilty of the contempt charge. If the court finds the person guilty of contempt, the court may impose a fine of up to $1,000, imprison the person in the county jail for up to 30 days, or both.
|Title 15: Domestic Relations – Vermont Laws
|If the court finds all of the following, the person may be held in contempt of court: (1) The person was aware or should have been aware, that he or she was subject to a court-ordered obligation. (2) The individual has failed to follow the court’s order.
|Imprisonment as a punitive action for contempt, or to impose orders, sentences, or edicts in contempt litigation, or upon execution issued in civil process, shall take place in a correctional facility operated or maintained by the state.
|§ 16.1-69.24. Contempt of court – Virginia Law
|Misbehavior in or near the presence of the court that obstructs or interrupts the administration of justice
|A fine of no more than $250 and no more than ten days in prison
|Chapter 7.21 RCW: CONTEMPT OF COURT
|When a party to a case fails to obey a court order, they may be held in contempt.
|Following a finding of contempt of court in a proceeding under subsection (1) of this section, a court may impose a punitive sanction of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, or a remedial sanction specified in RCW 7.21.
|WV Code § 61-5-26 – West Virginia Legislature
|(a) Misbehavior in or near the presence of the court that obstructs or interrupts the administration of justice; (b) violence or threats of violence against a judge or officer of the court
|Without a jury, no court may impose a fine of more than $50 or imprison someone for more than ten days for any of the offenses listed in subdivision (a) of this section.
|785.01(1)(a) – Wisconsin Legislature
|If a party willfully and without legal justification disregard a court order
|Punitive Sanctions allow a person to be imprisoned for up to a year and fined up to $5,000 for each separate act of contempt. A judge is required to issue a contempt order. If the Family Court Commissioner wishes to hold someone in contempt, he or she must first refer the matter to a judge.
|title 1 – code of civil procedure – Wyoming Legislature
|(A) Contemptuous, disorderly, or insolent behavior that tends to disrupt the continuance of a trial or other legal procedures; (B) A violation of the peace, rowdy conduct, or violent disruption that tends to disrupt the court’s business; and (C) Unwilling to be sworn or respond as a testimony.
|If convicted of criminal contempt, the sentence for imprisonment shall not exceed six months unless the accused has been afforded the right to a jury trial on the charge.
|Filing a Motion for Contempt – Connecticut Judicial Branch
|Purposely failing to obey a court ruling
|A fine of no more than $100, or imprisonment for no more than six months, or both.
Contempt charges fall into one of two categories, civil and criminal. Civil charges will rarely appear on a background check, while criminal charges usually do show up.
When a person takes legal action against another party, there are certain requirements that must be met in accordance with the law:
Indirect criminal contempt occurs in the courtroom or within its vicinity but the judge is informed of the contempt by a witness.
Either direct or indirect, criminal contempt can be willful, like shouting down a witness, or accidental, like forgetting to switch off your cell phone.
In both cases, the court explains to the violator the nature of contempt and the court’s powers over the contempt and, if possible, allows the offender to apologize. Depending on the severity, the judge has the power to immediately administer punitive action.
Further classification is used to determine the level of contempt. The following types of contempt of court will show up on a person’s record when it reaches the level of ‘criminal.’
Civil or indirect contempt of court occurs away from the court when a person violates a court order. Having a civil contempt of court charge go on someone’s record depends entirely on the magnitude of the contempt.
Serious contempt like assault and other offenses that graduate to felony or misdemeanor go on the person’s record and remain visible on criminal background checks.3
Criminal contempt of court occurs when the person directly or indirectly interferes with court proceedings within the courtroom or its vicinity.
Direct contempt and criminal contempt of court are arguably the same, and the terms can be used interchangeably. They happen in and within the vicinity of the courtroom.
Indirect contempt of court is the same as civil contempt of court as it occurs away from the courtroom in the absence of judges and officers.
An accused person behaving in violation of court orders in a free world attracts corrective measures from law enforcers to coerce him/her to obey court orders.
Does contempt of court go on your record? The penalty for contempt of court cannot be described in a single formula. It depends on the type (criminal or civil) and severity of contempt. A contempt born as a misdemeanor can grow into a felony and increase the charges, or vice versa.3
The most common penalties for contempt of court include:
In the case of Blockburger vs. the United States,8 the Supreme Court of the United States decisively set standards to control double jeopardy.4 Every count of contempt of court holds a separate space in court action, and an accused person reserves the right to appeal against two counts of contempt with a claim of double jeopardy violation.
Just a single count of contempt is enough to take an offender to jail, depending on the severity of the contempt.
Double jeopardy9 does not apply to offenses that violate different statutory provisions. In such a case, every count of contempt is subject to court action. The increase in the number of different offenses, mostly criminal in nature, only adds crud when contempt of court goes on someone’s record.5
Depending on the type and seriousness of the contempt conviction, contempt of court can either show on a background check or not.5 Civil contempt claims (unless severe) don’t show on background checks, but criminal contempt shows on background checks.
The risk of contempt of court is the consequence that comes with a violation. Despite the human face in dealing with the offense, contempt of court can increase charges and complicate matters further by going on the record of the defendant. So, does contempt of court go on your record? Yes, depending on the severity.
When found in contempt of court, one risks imprisonment or paying a fine, or both.
When the situation is punitive, the court sentences one to a maximum of 180 days when found in contempt of court.
When a parent is guilty of violating a court’s custody order, they may face fines and be subjected to supervised visitation and reduced parenting time.
“Held in Contempt of Court” means found guilty of an offense of showing disrespect to court proceedings and court orders. In criminal contempt of court, the action is immediate and swift when someone expresses disobedience to court proceedings right in the presence of the judge.
There is criminal and civil contempt of court.
Indirect contempt occurs outside of the court, while direct contempt occurs during a hearing in the court’s eye.
Generally, contempt of court does not appear on a person’s record and is not a criminal offense.
It is a behavior that entails disrespecting the court during a civil proceeding.
There is civil, criminal, and direct or indirect contempt of court.
Punishment can be a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail if the defendant violates a court order. Punishment for indirect contempt takes the dimension of the criminal element in the contempt.6
A fine of no more than $500 or a maximum of six months in county jail
Willfully or purposefully obeying court orders and judgments
‘Beating’ or preventing a contempt of court for child support is done one of two ways. First, an individual shouldn’t place themselves in a position to be held in contempt. Secondly, a person can make sure that there is no evidence that proves they are in contempt. For example, if they have no income to pay the support, they can’t be held in contempt for not paying.
1Fizeradmin. (2019, May 29). Does Contempt of Court Go on Your Record? Retrieved May 15, 2022, from Fizerbailbonds.com: <https://fizerbailbonds.com/does-contempt-of-court-go-on-your-record/>
2guidance, L. (2022, May 4). contempt of Court, Reporting Restrictions and restrictions on Public Access to Hearing. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from GOV.UK: <https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/contempt-court-reporting-restrictions-and-restrictions-public-access-hearings>
3bonding, O. (2022, n.d n.d). Is Contempt of Court Bad? Retrieved May 16, 2022, from Bail Webmasters: <https://www.owensbonding.com/is-contempt-of-court-bad/>
4Wikipedia. (n.d, n.d n.d). Blockburger V. United States. Retrieved from wkipedia.org <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockburger_v._United_States>
5Repair, B. C. (2022, n.d n.d). What Shows Up on a Background Check. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from Background check repair.org: <https://backgroundcheckrepair.org/what-shows-up-on-a-background-check/>
6Stein, P. &. (n.d, n.d n.d). Divorce & Custody attorneys Protecting Your Future. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from plogsteinlaw.com: <https://www.plogsteinlaw.com/contempt-of-court-frequently-asked-questions-consequences>
7Department of Justice Archives. (2022). 752. General Definition of Contempt. Criminal Resource Manual 701-799. Retrieved June 01, 2022, from <https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-752-general-definition-contempt>
8Library of Congress. (1931). U.S. Reports: Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932). Periodical. Retrieved June 01, 2022, from <https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep284299/>
9Constitution Annotated. (2022). Amdt184.108.40.206 Double Jeopardy Clause: Historical Background. Essay. Retrieved June 01, 2022, from <https://constitution.congress.gov/essay/amdt5_2_1_1/>
10Find Law. (2021, April 14). Texas Government Code – GOV’T § 21.002. Contempt of Court. Government Code. Retrieved June 01, 2022, from <https://codes.findlaw.com/tx/government-code/gov-t-sect-21-002.html>