Contempt of Court – Definition

Cite this article as:"Contempt of Court – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 10, 2019, last accessed October 27, 2020,

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Contempt of Court Definition

Contempt of court refers to disdain or disrespect towards a court authority, court officer. It is an act of disobedience and disregard for the dignity of the court such as disruption of court process, interference with court order and insults to the court authority. Any conduct that defies, scorns, disrespects, despair or opposes the court is regarded as contempt of court. According to Title 18 of the United States Code, contempt of court has four elements, they are;

  • Misbehavior of a person;
  • Misbehavior in or near to the presence of the court;
  • which obstructs the administration of justice;
  • and is committed with the required degree of criminal intent.

A Little More on What is Contempt of Court

There are two categories of contempt of court;

  • Criminal versus civil, and
  • Direct versus indirect

Contempt of court is an act that is taken seriously by courts. Punishments and penalties are meted to erring individuals. Depending on the gravity of the contempt, the court can award fines or give prison terms to serve deterrent, this is commonly found in criminal contempt. Punishment for Civil contempt can be reversed just by an act of obedience, such charges are to avoid future occurrence of such acts.

Direct contempt is one done inside of the court while indirect is done outside of the court. Judges do not take contempt of court lightly.

Example of Criminal Contempt of Court

The court case that involved Martin A. Armstrong is a popular example of criminal contempt of court. The U.S government accused Armstrong of a ponzi scheme with $3 billion. The judgement of the court was that Armstrong should pay $15 million in gold which he refused claiming that he had no such assets. He was punished for contempt of court and awarded seven years in prison.

There are other instances where people have been jailed for criminal contempt of court. There have also been instances in the United Kingdom where jurors have been jailed for contempt of court done on the internet.

Reference for “Contempt of Court” › Legal Dictionary › Insights › Laws & Regulations

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