Defining a crime of contempt is a tricky issue, but a recent case by the Supreme Court of the United States has helped clarify the definition of the crime of contempt. It also provided guidance regarding the appropriate punishment for the crime.
Defendant-Appellee v. Carl
Appellants John F. Hendry and Laraine Willis were a couple of old schoolers, and not exactly edgy. The twosome relocated to Prescott after retirement from the Garrett Corporation in 1981. Despite this, a revolving door of a wife and husband were not the norm. It wasn’t until two years after their divorce was final that the pair finally took the plunge and opened a joint checking account.
The twosome also splurged on a new car and home. While they did not have a formal parenting plan, they did share custody of their daughter Christa. This prompted a series of questions and answers sessions that ultimately led to a custody ruling in their favor.
Defining a “crime” of contempt
Defining a “crime” of contempt can be tricky. It is important to understand that an act of contempt is an affront to a court and its judicial authorities. It may also interfere with the course of court business. In addition, it may deprive a party to a lawsuit of relief.
A “contempt” charge is a formal accusation of a person or organization in violation of a court order. Contempt may be charged in both civil and criminal cases. Typically, a court may impose a coercive penalty for civil contempt, or impose a more lenient sentence for criminal contempt.
Punishment for crimes of contempt
Depending on the circumstances of the case, punishment for crimes of contempt may include jail time, fines, or both. The penalties for contempt are based on the nature of the crime, the nature of the court order, and the inherent powers of the court.
Some common crimes of contempt include failing to pay child support, failing to testify, and creating a disturbance at trial. If you are accused of any of these crimes, you should consult with a criminal attorney as soon as possible.
Criminal contempt is an offense that occurs when a person willfully violates the terms of a court order. A willful violation means that the contemnor knows that their act is in violation of the court’s order.
Guidance in proportionality of sentence in criminal law
Until recently, the common law definition of contempt presumed that any conduct was contemptible whether the defendant intended to do so or not. This definition was overturned in the last decade by the Supreme Court in Stanford and Penry. They overturned the presumption that any conduct was contemptible, and that the prosecution had to prove the defendant’s intent to do so. These cases represented a break from the tradition of careful scrutiny and subjective criteria.
The Supreme Court has also considered the proportionality of sentences for specific categories of defendants, including non-triggermen accomplices, mentally retarded individuals, and rape. In these cases, the Court has considered both subjective and objective criteria for determining whether the sentence is cruel and unusual. It has also examined the proportionality of death sentences for murder and rape.