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Criminal Contempt of Court Explained
PC 166(a)(1) & 166(a)(4)

Information on the crime of criminal contempt of court is found at California penal code sections 166(a)(1) and 166(a)(4).

To prove that the defendant is guilty of criminal contempt, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:

  • Created a disturbance, or noise, to purposefully interrupt the proceedings of any court (PC 166(a)(1)), or
  • Willfully did not follow the terms of a court order, or (PC 166(a)(4))
  • refused to swear in as a witness or answer questions without legal exemption (PC 166(a)(4))

Note: There are two types of contempt of court: civil contempt and criminal contempt. This article deals with criminal contempt, which carries an actual jail sentence if found guilty. Criminal contempt may stem from both criminal and civil court proceedings, but with civil contempt the defendant is not facing jail time.

For example, in family law court, if a party does not obey a court order, such an order to pay child support, the party may be held in criminal contempt even though the court proceeding was in a civil family law case (PC 166(a)(4).

Example 2: If a person in a criminal or civil court is disrupting the court proceedings then the defendant may be charged criminal contempt for disrupting a court proceeding (PC 166(a)(1).

Sentence & Penalty for Criminal Contempt

Criminal contempt of court under either PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4) is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4), the defendant could face up to six months in the county jail.

In addition to any jail sentence, if found guilty of criminal contempt of court under either PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4), a defendant may be ordered to pay fines, suffer probation terms, suffer negative immigration or professional licensing consequences, and more.

Defense to PC 166: Contempt of Court
Common defenses to contempt of court charges include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant intentionally violated a court order or intentionally disturb a court proceeding, mistake of fact, statute of limitations (with disobeying a court order), and purging contempt (common in family law cases).
If you have been charged with criminal contempt under PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4), contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay. Our attorneys are experienced and successful with winning records in criminal contempt proceedings.
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Crimes related to criminal contempt, include

  • Contempt of court with injury PC 166(a)(1)
  • Disobedience of court order PC 166(a)(4)
  • Violation of protective/stay away order PC 166(c)(1)

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California Contempt of Court Law & Defense PC 164


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