When Is Contempt of Court a Federal Offense?

Posted on in Federal Crimes

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerMany people have heard the term contempt of court, whether on a television show, movie, or perhaps even in real life. While this term is often used in state court, many people also do not understand that this offense can be considered a federal crime. In fact, the federal statutes have many pieces of law pertaining to contempt of court, and they can all become complex. It is for this reason that, if you are facing contempt of court charges, you must work with a criminal defense attorney that is familiar with federal offenses, and knows how to defend against them.

18 U.S. Code, Chapter 21

All of the United States’ statutes dealing with contempt of court are found in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 21. This chapter is broken down into several sections regarding different aspects of contempt of court. Section 401 within this chapter deals with the power of the court, while Section 402 outlines when contempt constitutes a criminal offense. Lastly, Section 403 of 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 21 specifically deals with protecting the privacy of child victims and witnesses to a crime that are children.

18 U.S. Code, Section 401

Section 401 of this chapter of the federal criminal code authorizes a federal court to punish a person when they misbehave in a court, or in close enough proximity to a court that it obstructs the administration of justice. Under this section of code, federal courts also have the authority to punish a court officer if they misbehave while performing any of their official transactions. Lastly, the court can also punish the disobedience of any processes, rules, orders, lawful writs, commands, or decrees.

When the court finds that anyone is in contempt of court in these situations, the court may impose a fine or prison sentence.

18 U.S. Code, Section 402

Section 402 of this chapter of code outlines when contempt of court constitutes a federal offense punishable by fines or imprisonment. This section outlines that it is a federal offense for any person, corporation, or association to willfully disobey a lawful process, rule, writ, command or decree of the U.S. District Court of the United States, or a D.C. court by engaging in a prohibited act when that act constitutes a criminal offense.

18 U.S. Code, Section 403

18 U.S. Code, Section 403 is unique from the other sections of Chapter 21 because it also deals with another piece of legislation. This section states that when a person violates the laws in Section 3509, they can be charged with contempt of court. Section 3509 is meant to protect the privacy of minors when they have witnessed a crime or were the victim of a crime. Under Section 3509, the penalty for individuals convicted under this statute can face up to one year in prison, as well as a fine.

Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help with Your Charges

When hearing ‘contempt of court,’ many people do not think it is a serious crime, but that is not true. Under any section of federal law, this offense can carry high fines and even imprisonment for those convicted. If you have been charged with contempt of court, call our skilled Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today. Attorney Garfinkel knows the valid defenses to use in these cases, and he will use them effectively to help you beat your charges, or get them reduced for a lesser sentence. Call him today at 312-629-0669 or contact him online to arrange a free consultation.


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