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Four Types of Contempt of Court in Indiana: Be Aware!

Conflict and dispute is a part of daily life. Most of the time, conflicts are resolved through means outside of court. In a very small percent of daily or even life matters, there is no ability to resolve the matter outside of a lawsuit. In this case the wonder of the US legal system comes into play.

Litigants go to court and ask a judge to decide a matter. Cast in terms of emotion and winning or losing everything from children to property and freedom, it is easy to lose track of the fact the trial court judge is neutral in the dispute and is someone that You elected to that office. That is, in Indiana, trial court judges are elected, not appointed. They are sworn to decide cases.

A judge wants nothing more than for parties to resolve matters, and most of the time this occurs without a hearing or trial. However, trial court judges do default to making binding decisions despite the parties when they cannot do it for themselves. It is very easy for litigants to blame a decision on shortfalls of lawyers or judges.

Judges sometimes are singled out by litigants because they do not agree. However, a judge and courtroom deserve due respect and have the ability to protect the integrity of the legal system we all count on. If an act or failure is out of bounds, you may be found in contempt.

In Indiana, there are four types of contempt you need to be aware of as a litigant in the trial court: direct and indirect, civil and criminal contempt. These laws or remedies are what the trial court possesses to protect the legal system we all count on. Understanding the types of contempt is the first step in avoiding them.

Indirect civil contempt is where a party refuses, for instance, to follow a court order. If this is willful, the judge may find you in contempt and impose a range of sanctions from admonishment to avoid this to incarceration. Incarceration is for the worst of behaviors and is to compel the party to comply. Once this occurs, then the parties are released because he or she is purged of the contempt.

Direct civil contempt is not as common a term or finding of a trial court. This could include a situation where a party states in court he or she will not follow a court’s orders. The range of penalties is the same, but stems from a parties refusal to follow a court’s order.

In some cases, a party’s acts or failure is so great in the court it actually disturbs the courtroom, judge, or his or her office so much it impedes the business of the court and the judge knows of it as or near the time it occurs. This is somewhat like battery of a person and injures the functioning of the court. In these cases, a party is afforded certain due process rights but may, upon being heard, be incarcerated for a fixed period of time, like any other criminal case.

Indirect criminal intent is similar but the interference with a court’s business happens outside the courthouse or courtroom. If the judge subsequently learns of it, indirect criminal contempt may lie. An example would be where a criminal litigant interferences with an arm of the court, such as refusal to comply with a probation officer’s request.

Remember judges are tasked with solving a problem no one else can solve. We all need to respect a court, courthouse, and judge for our way of life and freedom to exist as it does today. A contempt finding may do irreparable harm to your case. Be aware!

We hope you find this material useful to educate you about any such issue you face. This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. and is for general educational purposes only. It is not legal advice, or solicitation for legal services. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle civil and criminal appeals from all Indiana state trial courts, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, or United States Supreme Court.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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