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Contempt of Court Law & Defense

PC 166(a)

Information on the crime of contempt of court is found at penal code section 166(a). There are two main criminal contempt charges:

  • PC 166(a)(1) Creating a disturbance or noise in court to purposefully interrupt the court proceedings, and
  • PC 166(a)(4) Willful failure to follow court orders or willful fail to swear in as a witness or answer questions without a legal exemption.

Criminal contempt of court may stem from civil proceedings. For example, in family law court, if the defendant does not obey a court order to pay child support the defendant may be held in criminal contempt even though the court proceedings was a civil proceeding.

Sentence for Criminal Contempt of Court

Criminal contempt of court charged under either PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4) is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of either PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4) the defendant could face up to six months in county jail for each violation.

For example, if the defendant willfully fails to pay spousal support for three months after being ordered to do so by a family law judge then the defendant could face up to six months in jail for each violation.

In addition to any possible jail sentence, if found guilty of criminal contempt of court the defendant may be punished with any or all of the following: probation, ordered to pay court fees and fines, suffer adverse consequences with a professional license, suffer adverse consequences with immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), and more.

Defense to Contempt Charges

Common defenses to a charge of criminal contempt include, but are not limited to: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant willfully failed disobeyed a court ordered, ambiguity in the court order, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, and more. In addition, some courts will allow the defendant to purge the contempt by performing the original obligation required by the court.

If you have been charged with criminal contempt of court under PC 166(a)(1) or 166(a)(4), contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys are available every day of the week to answer all of your questions and to discuss your defense options. Call today!


 Crimes related to criminal contempt, include

  • PC 166(a)(1) Contempt of court with injury

  • PC 166(a)(4) Disobedience of court order

  • PC 166(c)(1) Violation of protective/stay away order

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California Contempt of Court Law & Defense PC 166(a)


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