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Contempt of Court: Woman Gets 30 Days in Jail for Disrespecting Judge

News Story That Went Viral

Last week in the news, we learned of a suspect was arrested on minor drug charges: unlawful possession of a controlled substance, Xanax. When she appeared in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the Judge questioned her about her assets, for purposes of a release bond. The suspect laughed in response to the Judge’s questions. He continued to remind her that the proceedings were to be taken seriously, and that they were not in a night club but a court of law. Unfortunately, she did not answer his questions seriously. As a result, the Judge then ordered bail of $10,000.00. At that point, the suspect made an inappropriate exit remark, and disrespectful gesture with her hand. The judge immediately demanded the suspect to return to the podium, and promptly sentenced her to 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

After serving 4 days in jail, the defendant retained a criminal defense attorney. He appealed the harsh 30 day jail sentence and $10,000.00 bond. The defendant formally apologized to the judge for her actions and explained she was under the influence of a controlled substance in her previous court appearance. The Judge remanded her sentence. She was released from jail, and the bond was dropped. She will participate instead in a substance abuse treatment program.

Contempt of Court Overview  

There are several different ways a person may held in contempt of court. One is if they disobey a court order for evidence, or honor previous orders given by the judge. Above is an illustration of reason a person may be held in contempt of court. That is, they may be in contempt of court if they are rude, disruptive, or disrespectful to the judge or others in the courtroom. This is particularly the case if the judge has given them a warning. A presiding Judge has control over the courtroom proceedings. That’s one of their primary objectives. So when there are disturbances that interfere with the ability of the proceedings to take place in an orderly fashion, they have full discretion to charge someone with criminal contempt especially if it involves a threat to the judge, or witness.

Contempt of Court Laws and Penalties in Arizona

A.R.S 12 – 861 defines Criminal Contempt as willful disobedience of lawful processes, orders or judgment by committing an act that is forbidden. If the act or behavior is considered a criminal offense it shall be prosecuted as provided under A.R.S. 12-862 and A.R.S. 12-863.

A.R.S 12 – 864 defines Direct Contempt in the presence of the court Behavior of contempt committed in the presence of the court, that obstructs proceedings in the administration of justice, failure to obey processes orders, judgments of the court and all other contempt not specifically mentioned in this code may be punished in conformity standard practice and common law.

Penalties for contempt in Arizona courts may include extended incarceration terms, fines, large bail bonds and other disciplinary orders. These penalties are rarely successful on appeal unless they are extremely excessive or unjustified.

Tips to avoiding Criminal Contempt of Court

  • Always follow the advice and guidance of your attorney;
  • Answer respecting all questions asked of you by the judge unless your attorney advises you otherwise with alternative actions;
  • Know the etiquette and court standards of the court for which you will appear, including dress codes;
  • Comply with all court orders, unless you receive alternative direction from your attorney such as awaiting alternative orders on appeal;
  • Be respectful to the Judge, witnesses, other attorneys, and all others present in the courtroom;
  • Avoid raising your voice, outbursts, or any other display of anger or adverse reactions to an order;
  • Take all court proceedings extremely seriously

Defenses for Contempt of Court and Criminal Charges in Maricopa County AZ

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney before your scheduled court appearance. It is never a good idea to appear without proper representation. In the event you have been charged with contempt of court, you have the option of retaining an attorney to appeal it. Although uncommon, appeals may be based on unusually excessive penalties; statutory time limits; violations of constitutional rights, or even error. No matter what the criminal charges, there may be defenses you are unaware of that can be used to get a favorable outcome in your case. Retention of a qualified and experienced criminal attorney will increase the chances of obtaining a favorable resolution in your case.

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