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Contempt of Court

One of the most powerful tools  that can be used to force compliance with the law is contempt of court.  When someone wilfully disobeys a court order, that person can be held on contempt of court.  The judge then has the option of imposing a fine on the defendant or sending him or her to jail until there is compliance with the court order.  The person is entitled to a hearing before being sentenced to show why he or she should not be held in contempt of court.  I have found that just the possibility of being found in contempt is enough to encourage a recalcitrant defendant to do what he or she was previously ordered to do.  Only one of the defendants I have prosecuted ever served jail time for contempt.  The rest complied by the date they had been ordered to surrender in court to begin their jail stay, thereby purging themselves of contempt.   While fines usually get most people to comply with the code, there are always a few defendants who are defiant.  In those rare cases, a petition for rule to show cause is the document that ought to be filed by the prosecutor to seek compliance.

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