Constitutional Due Process in Contempt Attorney California - Talkov Law
Family Law Attorney Family Law Contempt Attorney Constitutional Due Process Rights and Requirements in Family Law Contempt Actions

Constitutional Due Process Rights and Requirements in Family Law Contempt Actions

contempt child support violation attorney family law court california punishment charged lawyer riverside custody

Due Process Rights in Family Court Contempt Proceedings

As a result of the quasi-criminal nature of contempt proceedings in California family court, the rights and privileges afforded to defendants held to answer for charges in criminal court pursuant to the U.S. Consitution are likewise afforded to the citee in contempt proceedings in family court.

What Rights is a Citee in a Contempt Action Entitled to?

Notice of the Contempt

The citee must be put on formal notice of the charge(s) and of the time and place for the court hearing on the charge. This includes a formal reading of the charges, although this is regularly waived by the citee upon arraignment. Conformed copies of the charging affidavit and the Order to Show Cause re Contempt (OSC re Contempt) must be served on the citee at least 21 calendar days before the hearing (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1005(b)). Service of the notice must be effectuated in a manner authorized for service of summons (generally, personal service). OSC re Contempt is not properly served by the more lenient California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1010 et seq. methods for service generally (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1016; Cal Fam. Code § 215). Service on the citee’s attorney will not suffice in a contempt proceeding (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1015, 1016; see also Cal Fam. Code § 215).

Opportunity to be Heard on the Contempt

Contempt proceedings cannot be decided on the moving and responding pleadings alone because the citee is constitutionally entitled to a formal hearing and must be allowed to testify in his/her own defense, to call and cross-examine witnesses, and to introduce evidence (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1217).

Application of the 5th Amendment in Contempt Proceedings

The citee must be afforded the testimonial privileges of a criminally accused defendant. He or she is entitled to exercise the privilege against self-incrimination and the privilege is not waived by filing an answer to the charging affidavit (U.S. Const. Amend. V).

Right to Jury Trial in Contempt Proceedings

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a jury trial in all “serious” contempt proceedings and the California Consitution extends the right to all criminal prosecutions above an “infraction.” Thus, there is a right to jury trial in criminal contempt proceedings that carry a maximum penalty of 180 days (6 months), plus $1,000 fine. If the court proceeds to trial on contempt charges without a jury, and the citee has not expressly waived the right to a jury, the maximum sentence that may be imposed is 180 days (6 months). A longer sentence in violation of the jury trial right will not invalidate a contempt conviction, but the court must reduce the sentence to six months or less (U.S. Const. Amend. VI).

Right to Counsel in Contempt Proceedings

Contempt citees have a due process right to be represented by an attorney, and where the potential penalty includes a jail sentence, an indigent citee has the due process right to court-appointed counsel at the expense of the county. Many citees simply retain or re-retain the family law attorney who represented him or her in the underlying divorce, paternity action, child support case, child custody dispute, legal separation, annulment, adoption, domestic violence restraining order, child custody modification, move away, dissolution of domestic partnership, etc.; however, it is advisable to contact a family law attorney with knowledge and experience in the specific field of contempt defense, as the punishment for a contempt conviction can include jail time.

High Burden of Proof – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Required for Contempt Conviction

The citee also has the same rights as a criminal defendant, in that the party alleging the contempt must present proof of a prima facie contempt case by competent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt (Cal Pen. Code § 1096). The contempt must be discharged if the charging party fails to meet this burden on each element of the prima facie case.

Double Jeopardy Attaches in Contempt Proceedings

The U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person will not be subject to duplicate punishment or duplicate prosecution for the same criminal offense (U.S. Const. Amend. V; see also Cal Pen. Code § 1387). Double jeopardy protection attaches in a criminal contempt prosecution to the same extent it does in other criminal prosecutions.

Riverside Contempt Attorneys Combining Knowledge & Skill With Compassion & Dedication

Our experience inside and outside of the courtroom allows us to consistently deliver exceptional results for the litigants we represent.  Our Riverside contempt attorneys are interested in finding tailored solutions to each litigant’s problems, using the facts and investigative tactics necessary to produce real-time solutions for our clients.

Our skilled attorneys will advise you every step of the way, so this contentious and frustrating process becomes less challenging and more palatable from beginning to end.

If you anticipate a contempt proceeding is (or should be) imminent in your life, it is important to know that a Riverside contempt attorney can help you understand the process, so you can temper your anxiety about what’s to come.  We can help get you there faster, so you can get your life back on track.

Contact Our Experienced Riverside, California Contempt Attorney Now

Litigants can rely on the experience of our Riverside contempt attorneys in filing, prosecuting, and defending contempt actions. Our Southern California family law firm fights hard to make the legal system work for our clients. Contact our accomplished and dedicated Riverside contempt lawyers today by calling 951-888-3300 to learn how our experienced contempt attorney, Colleen Sparks, can guide you through the court process in a prompt and clear manner.

Our Recent Contempt Blog Posts

    Feed has no items.