Appealing a Contempt Charge in Alabama
Appealing a contempt charge in Alabama may be advisable depending on the type of contempt charge involved. In Alabama contempt charges, or contempt citations, are divided into four classes: (1) direct, (2) indirect, or constructive, (3) criminal, and (4) civil. All civil and criminal contempt proceedings arising out of civil actions are governed by Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 70A. Direct contempt is an act of contempt that is done within the presence of the court. Indirect contempt includes any contempt other than that which is a direct contempt. In general terms, this means the content in which all or some of the acts or action take place outside the presence of the court.
Civil contempt refers to a willful, continuing failure or refusal of a person to comply with a court’s order, ruling, or command, including a subpoena. In order for there to be a civil contempt the ruling, order, or command must still be capable of being complied with before Alabama contempt charges will be justified. Criminal contempt occurs in two situations: 1) where the misconduct of the person obstructs the administration of justice and is committed in the court’s presence are so close to the court that it interrupts, disturbs or hinders the court proceeding, and 2) where there is willful disobedience or resistance by a person to a court’s lawful order and where the court’s principal purpose for the content is to punish as opposed to coursing compliance with the order.
Punishment for Contempt
The potential punishment for contempt charges in Alabama include jail and fines up to $100.00 per incident of contempt. If the contempt charge is a criminal contempt charge, Alabama law restricts the punishment to fines of up to $100.00 and up to five (5) days in jail. However, these limits apply to each individual instance of contempt, and where there are numerous acts of contempt, the fines and jail days may stack.
A civil contempt can result in indefinite incarceration. You can be kept in jail until you comply with the court’s order. Because of these potential punishments, contempt charges, whether civil or criminal are a serious matter. If you are Found in contempt of court you should certainly consider appealing the court’s decision finding you in contempt.
Appealing a Contempt Charge
In Alabama the Alabama rules of court provide that a finding of contempt may be appealed to the appellate courts of Alabama. However, due to the nature of contempt charges and punishment for contempt, fast action is necessary in order for the appeal to be meaningful. It is important to retain an Alabama appellate lawyer to file the necessary appeal papers with the trial court and to push the appeal forward as quickly as possible to secure relief.
When appealing a contempt charge, the standard of review for a criminal contempt in a civil proceeding is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high level of proof which is difficult to reach. Because of this, it is certainly possible for a trial court to rule that a person has committed criminal contempt where there is not a sufficient level of evidence supporting the finding beyond a reasonable doubt. In such a case, quick action on appeal can bring the matter before an appellate court will apply the correct standard of review and scrutinize the trial court’s ruling to determine whether it was correct. An Alabama appellate lawyer understands the various standards of proof and methods of showing the required proof as well as particular areas where proof is difficult and where contempt findings can be reversed.
If you find yourself being found guilty of contempt, facing a contempt citation, or appealing a contempt charge, do not delay in seeking legal counsel. The Alabama appellate lawyers at Bradford Ladner LLP are experienced in handling contempt proceedings and contempt appeals. We’ll be more than happy to speak with you regarding your situation. Please call Bradford Ladner LLP today.