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Indirect Criminal Contempt

Section 38.22, Florida Statutes, states, “Every court may punish contempts against it whether such contempts be direct, indirect, or constructive, and in any such proceeding the court shall proceed to hear and determine all questions of law and fact.” “[T]o prove indirect criminal contempt, ‘there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual intended to disobey the court.’ ” Tide v. State, 804 So.2d 412, 413 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (citation omitted).

Indirect criminal contempt is conduct occurring outside the presence of the judge which constitutes “a clear and present danger to the orderly administration of justice . . . whether speech constitutes a clear and present danger is measured not by the content of the remark but by the impact on judicial action.” Wasserman v. State, 671 So. 2d 846, 848 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996).

In an indirect criminal contempt charge, there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt against the accused. Tide v. State, 804 So. 2d 412, 413 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). Intent is an essential element, and intent can be inferred from the actions of the accused. Power Line Components, Inc. v. Mil-Spec Components, Inc., 720 So. 2d 546 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).

“[I]ntent for indirect criminal contempt can be inferred from the actions of the contemnor where it is foreseeable under the circumstances that the contemnor’s conduct would prompt action disruptive of court proceedings.” Milian, 764 So.2d at 862. For example, “courts have long recognized the power to punish persons for criminal contempt when perjury is established.” Forbes v. State, 933 So.2d 706, 711 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).

Where intent is supported by the facts, the court may conclude that the accused’s behavior was willful and calculated to hinder the orderly functions of the court. Mann v. State, 476 So. 2d 1369, 1374 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985).

Attorney for Contempt Charges in Florida

If you were charged with either direct or indirect criminal contempt then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and possible defenses to the charges. From a formal charging document to an order to show cause, we can help you fight the charges. The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent clients charged with criminal contempt in a variety of settings.

Call us today to discuss the case at (813) 250-0500.


Contempt by Concealment by a Juror During Voir Dire

Allegations for indirect criminal contempt can take place in a variety of settings. One type of contempt is concealment or misstatement by a juror during a voir dire examination. “Concealment or misstatement by a juror upon a voir dire examination is punishable as a contempt if its tendency and design are to obstruct the processes of justice.” Clark v. United States, 289 U.S. 1, 10, 53 S.Ct. 465, 77 L.Ed. 993 (1933).

The Court in Clark explained that “[i]f the answers to the questions are willfully evasive or knowingly untrue, the talesman, when accepted, is a juror in name only. His relation to the court and to the parties is tainted in its origin; it is a mere pretense and sham.” Id. at 11, 53 S.Ct. 465. Thus to the court the “use of false swearing and concealment” is a “means whereby to accomplish … acceptance as a juror, and under cover of that relation obstruct the course of justice.” Id.

In DeMartin v. State, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D797 (Fla. 4th DCA Mar. 30, 2016), reh’g denied (Apr. 27, 2016), competent substantial evidence supported a contempt conviction for concealing and failing to disclose the defendant’s ex-wife’s DUI arrest. The trial court found the defendant was willfully dishonest when answering “questions regarding the effects that alcohol had on his loved ones and his attitudes towards them, also was not candid, or was willfully deceitful about criminal history….” Significantly, the state presented evidence that appellant had contacted his ex-wife during the trial and specifically asked her about her DUI arrest.

In Forbes v. State, 933 So.2d 706 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006), a prospective juror answered no when asked if he or anyone in his family had ever been arrested and if he had any criminal charges pending against him. The state discovered that the prospective juror had a prior arrest and a pending criminal charge. The prospective juror then admitted that he had been arrested for felony possession of marijuana. After initially denying that anyone in his family had ever been arrested, he also admitted that his father had been arrested. This court affirmed the prospective juror’s conviction for direct criminal contempt and sentenced him to four months in jail.


Finding an Attorney for Contempt Charges

After an accusation that you committed contempt, either indirect or direct contempt, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. We represent clients throughout Hillsborough County including at the courthouse in Tampa and Plant City, FL. Call today to discuss your case and learn more about important defenses.

Don’t face the judge alone. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (813) 250-0500.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

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