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What Does It Mean to Be in Criminal Contempt in Iowa?

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 an Iowa courtroom. If you would like to know what criminal contempt of court entails in Iowa, please read on, then contact an experienced Des Moines criminal defense lawyer today. Here are some questions you may have:

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What constitutes criminal contempt of court in Iowa?

Criminal contempt of court is any behavior in or out of court that violates a court order or otherwise disrupts or shows disregard for the court. Refusing to answer a proper question, file court papers on time, pay court-ordered child support or follow local court rules can expose witnesses, lawyers and litigants to contempt findings.

Who can be held in criminal contempt of court in Iowa?

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 Iowa?

If the court finds the party – also known as the contemner – to have willfully disobeyed a court order or decree, it will likely find the party in contempt and punish them. Under Iowa law, a district court may punish contempt with a sentence of imprisonment of thirty days for each finding of contempt, but not to exceed six months.

Reach out to one of our skilled Des Moines lawyers if you have any further questions about contempt of court or would like to mount a defense against charges.

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