You may be charged with contempt for a violation of a court order, including restraining orders in Domestic Violence cases. Depending on the nature of your offense and the facts of your case, not complying with a New Jersey Court order can lead to severe repercussions. The contempt charge and penalty is contingent upon the initial court order and the conduct of its violation.
Contempt of Court
In order to prove contempt of court, the prosecutor must provide evidence showing that the defendant purposely defied a valid oral or written judicial order applied to them. In the case of interfering with the implementation and execution of an order, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intentionally hindered or impeded the order despite their knowledge of its validity and existence. The prosecutor may also carry the burden of proving that the defendant was aware of the court, administrative agency, and/or investigation unit that held jurisdiction over a person/entity and yet deliberately hindered or impeded their exercise of the order.
Direct and Indirect Contempt
Direct contempt occurs under the court’s eye and within its own hearing. For example, refusing to answer questions from a judge or attorney under oath or behaving inappropriately in the courtroom is considered direct contempt. Indirect contempt occurs outside the presence of the court, thereby requiring there to be testimony and evidence of the contempt.
Charged with Contempt of Court?
Contempt of Court is typically considered a disorderly persons offense, thereby carrying up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. A conviction will appear on the defendant’s record. However, in domestic violence cases, a violation of a restraining order can occasionally result in a fourth degree charge instead of a disorderly persons offense. Any violation of a restraining order will not be tolerated, but offenses such as stalking or harassment carry harsher penalties than a minor violation. If contempt of court is elevated to a fourth degree crime, the sentence may include up to a $10,000 fine, up to 18 months of incarceration in state prison, and a fourth degree felony conviction.