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Civil Contempt in Nashville

Civil Contempt LawyerWhat is Civil Contempt?

Civil contempt of court is authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-9-102 and § 29-9-104.  A civil contempt of court proceeding is quasi-criminal, but civil in nature.  Civil contempt of court requires willfulness, which is defined as an act voluntarily and intentionally done with the specific intent to do something the court order prohibits.  There is no right to a jury trial in a civil contempt proceeding.  Generally speaking, a person charged with civil contempt has the keys to the jail cell in his pocket; meaning, once the incarcerated person convicted of civil contempt is complies with the court order, he will be released from jail.  Because civil contempt of court is a civil matter, the right of self incrimination does not exist; however, the person is entitled to court appointed counsel because her jeopardy and liberty are at stake.

Civil Contempt Procedure

A Petition for Civil Contempt shall set forth the provisions of the order alleged to be violated, set forth the factual violations of the order, allege that the violations of the court order were willful, and allege that the person has the present ability to comply with the court order.  If the person does not have the present ability to comply with the court order, i.e. to purge himself of contempt, the court cannot sentence the person to jail for civil contempt.  On the other hand, if the court finds that the person created the situation so that he cannot comply, the person can be charged with criminal contempt.  While a person charged with civil contempt may assert her right against self incrimination, an adverse inference can be drawn by the court.  Whether the respondent is found guilty or not guilty of civil contempt, either party may appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Proving Civil Contempt

A Petition for Contempt is filed with the court, alleging civil contempt of court.  The burden of proof in a civil contempt case is preponderance of the evidence.  Once a case has been presented for civil contempt, the respondent puts on proof of inability to comply with the order or that the noncompliance with the court order was not willful.  The civil contempt statute allows the court to award damages to make the plaintiff whole; if the civil contempt arose from performance of a forbidden act, the person may be incarcerated until the act is rectified by placing matters and person in status quo, or by the payment of damages.  If the act cannot be rectified, then the case is a criminal contempt case and not a civil contempt case.  The respondent should file an Answer to the Petition for Contempt, setting forth any defenses that show that the failure to comply with the court’s order were not willful.  Upon proving civil contempt, the petitioner is entitled to recover attorney fees.

Comparison of Criminal and Civil Contempt

Hiring Competent Civil Contempt Lawyer

Civil contempt of court is a complicated legal situation.  The law of civil contempt requires hiring a civil contempt lawyer with lots of knowledge and experience.  At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our civil contempt lawyers have over 20 years of experience handling civil contempt matters.  Schedule  an in person free initial consultation with one of our contempt lawyers through our online request form or by calling our office.

(615) 259-2660

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