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Criminal Contempt Laws in Nashville

Criminal Contempt LawyerWhat is Criminal Contempt?

Criminal contempt of court is authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-9-103.  Because criminal contempt is a criminal proceeding, a person charged with criminal contempt of court are entitled to Federal and State Constitutional protections.  The person charged with criminal contempt has a right to appointed counsel, right against self incrimination, and right to have the charges proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Punishment for criminal contempt is confinement in jail, fine, or both.  The maximum period of confinement is 10 days/$50 fine for each violation.  Each violation of the court order is a separate violation, and the court can sentence a person to consecutive sentences.  A consecutive sentence is an aggregate sentence where the individual sentences are ran one after the other, i.e. five (5) violations for failure to timely pay a child support obligation can result in a 50 day sentence.  Criminal contempt does not entitle a person to a jury trial because it is termed a “petty offense.”  No attorney fees can be awarded to the private party prosecuting a criminal contempt case (there is an argument for attorney fees being awarded if provided for in the Marital Dissolution Agreement or under a child support enforcement statute).

Criminal Contempt Procedure

A person charged with a criminal offense, i.e. criminal contempt of court, is entitled to notice of the charges against him.  The Petition for Contempt must contain notice sufficient to put the defendant on notice, specifically, of the violations of the court order.  Additionally, the defendant is served with an Order to Appear before the Court and answer to the criminal contempt charges.  Finally, a Notice of Rights is required, placing the defendant on notice of all the Constitutional rights afforded him.  A criminal defendant in a criminal contempt proceeding is not required to file an answer to the Petition for Contempt; the criminal contempt defendant merely enters a plea of not guilty.  If the Petition for Contempt consists of allegations of criminal and civil contempt, all criminal contempt violations are tried first.  A person charged with criminal contempt of court cannot be tried in absentia.  The statute of limitations for criminal contempt of court is twelve (12) months from the date of violation of the court order.

Proving Criminal Contempt

Each violation of criminal contempt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  The lawyer prosecuting the criminal contempt must prove two (2) things: 1) that the failure to follow the court order was willful, and 2) that the defendant had the ability to comply with the court order but chose not to do so.  It is insufficient to prove that there was a court order and the defendant did not follow the order.  After a finding of guilt, an appeal may be made to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Comparison of Criminal and Civil Contempt

Hiring Competent Criminal Contempt Lawyer

Criminal contempt of court is serious business; it usually results in the person being charged going to jail!  The law of criminal contempt is very intricate, and only a competent criminal contempt lawyer with complete understanding of contempt can help.  At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our criminal contempt lawyers are on top of the current Tennessee law dealing with contempt.  Schedule  an in person free initial consultation with one of our contempt lawyers through our online request form or by calling our office.

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