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Contempt is a form of enforcement order which authorizes the court to place a person who has violated a court order in jail. In a family law case these orders include the failure to comply with a custody or support order. They are disfavored by the court, but are often an effective tool to "hammer home the point" that the court means what it says when it makes an order.

In a contempt action the attorney for the party pursuing the contempt acts as a prosecutor. The other party is served with the "Contempt Citation" and thereafter the matter continues as a criminal case. There is an arraignment, trial and sentencing hearing, and all criminal procedural protections are followed. For example, the "defendant", the party alleged to have violated the order, has the right to an attorney or a public defender if they can’t afford one. They have the right to remain silent and not to testify, and the case must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, they are not entitled to a jury.

The problem with contempt is few lawyers without experience as a deputy district attorney or criminal defense attorney know how to do them. Time and time again we see contempt prosecutions brought for the wrong reason, improperly pleaded, or improperly defended.

At our office we have served as both Deputy District Attorneys with the County of Ventura, and private defense counsel in literally hundreds of criminal cases. We have vast jury and court trial experience. Most importantly we have handled more than 100 contempt matters in Ventura County alone, and many more in the surrounding counties. Call and we will provide you with a free consultation.

The Law Offices of Michael J. Smith are located directly
across the street from the Ventura County Court House
789 S. Victoria Avenue
Suite 208
Ventura, CA 93003

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