Contempt of Court Law and Legal Definition

Contempt of court means the willful disobedience to the rules, orders or process of a Court by way of an act or omission thereby affecting the orderly administration of justice. Individuals may be made liable for contempt of court when they disobey an order, fail to comply with a request, tamper with documents or withhold evidence. Interrupting the proceedings of a court also amounts to contempt. Contempt charges may be brought against parties, lawyers, jurors or witnesses. Contempt of court can be civil contempt or criminal contempt. Civil contempt involves the failure to perform an act ordered by a court for enforcing the rights of individuals or to secure remedies for parties in a civil action. Criminal contempt involves behavior that assaults the dignity of the court. For instance, criminal contempt occurs when a witness shouts or insults the judge during a trial. Courts have an inherent power to punish all persons for contempt of court orders and for disobedience of process.