Penal Code 166 PC - Contempt of Court in California
Many court orders in California are related to domestic violence protective or restraining orders. Penal Code 166 PC makes it a crime to disobey a court order, known as "contempt of court."
However, other types of behavior are considered contempt of court, such as excessive noise during a hearing and willfully disobeying other orders from the court.
The most common are related to deliberate court order breaches dealing with restraining orders, protective orders, and stay-away orders.
PC 166 says: “A person is guilty of contempt of court if they have disorderly or contemptuous behavior during a court hearing to interrupt its proceedings or to impair the respect due to its authority; a breach of the peace, noise, or other disturbance to interrupt a court proceeding; willful disobedience of a lawfully issued court order: unlawful refusal of a someone to be sworn as a witness or when so sworn, the like refusal to answer a material question….”
Penal Code 273.6 PC violating a restraining order and Penal Code 1320 PC failure to appear are related crimes.
To prove the guilt of violating PC 166, it must be proven that a court issued a lawful order, and the defendant knew about the order but intentionally violated it. A conviction carries up to one year in county jail.
Review of Penal Code 166 PC
PC 166 deals with a wide range of offenses that are deemed a contempt of court, such as the following:
- Noisy or disruptive behavior in a courtroom;
- Refusal to be sworn in as a witness;
- Disobeying a judge's instructions;
- Willfully violating a court order.
Violation of a court order is described as willfully disobeying a lawful order of a court, such as the following:
- Failure to pay child support under Penal Code 166.5 PC;
- Failure to appear for jury duty after summons;
- Failure to obey a subpoena;
- Disobey a restraining order or protective order.
As noted, the most common violations are related to deliberate failure to obey a restraining or protective order or stay-away order.
These are designed to protect victims of stalking, domestic violence, elder abuse, and others. These court orders are civil actions, but violating them is considered a crime. To convict you of violating a court order, a prosecutor has to prove several factors, such as the following:
- A judge issued an official court order;
- You knew of the court order;
- You were able to comply, and
- You willfully disobeyed the order.
What Are the Penalties for PC 166?
PC 166 contempt of court violations are misdemeanors that carry up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000 in fines.
However, suppose you violate a protective or restraining order related to domestic violence or elder abuse. In that case, the penalties will include the following:
- The jail time is increased to one year, and
- The fine could be increased up to $5000.
Suppose you have repeated violations related to domestic violence, elder abuse, or firearm possession. In that case, a “wobbler” can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
If you are charged with felony contempt, a conviction can result in up to 3 years in state prison. Further, the penalties will increase if you violate a court order after being convicted of the following:
- Penal Code 646.9 PC - stalking, or
- Penal Code 136.1 PC - dissuading a witness.
What Are the Defenses for PC 166?
Our California criminal lawyers could use several possible defenses discussed below. Maybe we can argue that it was not a willful violation. You are only guilty of violating a court order if the act was deliberate.
Maybe we can argue that you did not appear in court because you made an honest mistake on the hearing date, or perhaps you were unaware of the court order.
Suppose an emergency protective order was issued against you, but you were not legally served with the papers. In that case, you may have contacted the protected person without knowing it was prohibited.
Perhaps we can argue that you were falsely accused. Maybe the protected party in a domestic violence protective order is seeking revenge against you.
Penal Code 166 contempt of court charges can result in harsh consequences. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation to review the details and legal options. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, California.