What Does it Mean to be in Criminal Contempt of Court?

Generally, contempt of court refers to conduct that defies, disrespects, or insults the authority of a South Carolina court. Such conduct can be seen as detrimental to the South Carolina court’s ability to administer justice. Follow along to learn the punishments for being charged with criminal contempt of court and how an experienced Chesterfield criminal defense lawyer at The Cockrell Law Firm, P.C. can help you avoid this.

What does criminal contempt of court mean?

The purpose of a criminal contempt of court charge is to serve as deterrence of future acts of contempt by punishing the offender regardless of the outcome of the underlying proceeding. Notably, if you are incarcerated due to this offense, you cannot negotiate your release, even if you decide to comply with the court.

This varies from a civil contempt of court charge, which is to serve as coercion of the offender to comply with a South Carolina court that they have violated. With that being said, a South Carolina judge will use different factors when deciding whether to hold the offender in criminal or civil contempt, such as using the nature of the underlying court proceeding and the severity of the offender’s behavior.

Additionally, criminal contempt can be divided into direct contempt and indirect contempt. For one, direct contempt happens in the presence of the court, and as such hinders the South Carolina court’s ability to function properly. And with indirect contempt, this happens outside of the court. Examples include improperly communicating with jurors or refusing to provide subpoenaed evidence.

What happens if I am charged with criminal contempt of court?

As mentioned above, if you are charged with criminal contempt of court, you are facing separate charges from the underlying case at hand. If you are charged with such, you must be made aware that you have the same constitutional rights as a criminal defendant, such as the right to counsel, the right to put on a defense, the right to a jury trial, etc. Importantly, this charge against you must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, incarceration for criminal contempt of court may begin immediately, even before the charge is adjudicated and the sentence is decided. The ultimate consequences can be jail time and/or a fine.

If you require assistance with fighting the charges placed against you, do not hesitate in retaining the services of one of the skilled South Carolina lawyers at The Cockrell Law Firm today. We will do everything in our power to reduce or altogether eliminate the jail time and/or fines you are facing.


For competent and trustworthy legal counsel involving criminal law, personal injury law, divorce & separation, and family law, contact The Cockrell Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule your free initial consultation.