What Does It Mean to Be in Criminal Contempt of Court in New Jersey?

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criminal contempt court new jersey

If you watch any legal dramas, televised court hearings or even just the news, you have probably heard the phrase “contempt of court.” Criminal contempt of court may seem like a fairly straightforward concept, but the reality could be different in a New Jersey courtroom. If you would like to know what criminal contempt of court entails in New Jersey, please read on, then contact an experienced Mercer County criminal defense lawyer today.

What constitutes criminal contempt of court in New Jersey?

The Statutes of New Jersey describe the crime of contempt thus: “A person is guilty of a crime if he purposely or knowingly disobeys a judicial order or hinders, obstructs or impedes the effectuation of a judicial order or the exercise of jurisdiction over any person, thing or controversy by a Court, administrative body or investigative entity.”

In plainer terms, any conduct that defies, disrespects or insults the authority or dignity of a court may be criminal, particularly if it takes the form of actions that are detrimental to the court’s ability to administer justice.

Who can be held in criminal contempt of court in New Jersey?

Typically, judges have a great deal of discretion in deciding whom to hold in contempt and the type of contempt. Those held in contempt can include:

  • Parties to a proceeding
  • Attorneys
  • Witnesses
  • Jurors
  • People in or around a proceeding
  • Officers or staff of the court itself

How do you commit contempt of court?

Contempt of court can take place either directly or indirectly. Direct contempt happens in the presence of the court. For example, someone yells at the judge in a manner that impedes the court’s ability to function. Indirect contempt occurs outside the presence of the court. Examples include the following actions:

  • Communicating with jurors outside the court
  • Refusing to turn over subpoenaed evidence
  • Disobeying a court order

What happens if you are charged with criminal contempt of court?

If you have been charged with criminal contempt of court, you should know these charges are meant to be punitive. In other words, they serve to deter future acts of contempt by punishing the offender no matter what happens in the underlying proceeding. Someone incarcerated for criminal contempt can’t secure their own release by deciding to comply with the court.

What are the penalties for criminal contempt in New Jersey?

In most cases, contempt of court is a disorderly persons offense in the Garden State, meaning it carries the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in the county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • A conviction that will appear on your criminal record

Reach out to Douglas Herring, Esq. if you have any further questions about contempt of court or would like to mount a defense against charges.


If you face a criminal matter, contact The Law Office of Douglas Herring to schedule your initial consultation.

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