There’s an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press today about a woman in Oakland County who’s being jailed for 24 hours because she was late for jury duty. As a stay at home mom she had an issue finding child care for her two young children. When she showed up late to court Judge Leo Bowman found her in contempt, ordered her to sit as a spectator for the two-week long murder trial and imposed a 24 hour jail sentence when the trial finished. For the whole story click here
Our legal system is based on the idea that everyone has the right to tell their side of the story in front of 12 unbiased every day citizens. Do you agree? And do you think your civic duty to the legal system should come first even though it may be an inconvenience to your everyday life?
Here is some basic info on what contempt of court is:
Contempt of Court
Contempt is the power of the court to force someone to do something, make them stop doing something, or punish someone for violating a court order.
Contempt is can be either civil or criminal:
· Civil contempt is used to get someone to comply with a court order or to compensate someone for damages caused by disobeying a court order.
o If found in civil contempt, a person can be fined up to $7,500, be ordered to pay other costs and damages, or be jailed until they comply with the court’s order.
· Criminal contempt is used to punishment someone for disobeying a court’s order.
o If found in criminal contempt, a person can be fined up to $7,500, be ordered to pay other costs and damages, or be jailed for up to 93 days.
Normally, a hearing must be held to determine if the contempt occurred. But if the contempt occurred in the immediate view of the court (in the court room, during court proceedings) the judge is allowed to use summary proceedings. This means the judge can hold someone in contempt and punish them without a full hearing.
Remember: You have the right to an attorney if you are charged with contempt!
You have the right to have notice of the charges against you, an opportunity to present a defense or explanation, and the right to have an attorney assist you in the process.
Common situations where courts exercise their power of contempt:
· Violation of a court order
· Failure to pay child support
· Violation of a personal protection order (PPO)
· Violation of a parenting time order
· Refusal to testify as a witness