LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney J. Kevin Jones

5A-12. Punishment; circumstances for fine or imprisonment; reduction of punishment; other measures.

5A-12. Punishment; circumstances for fine or imprisonment; reduction of punishment; other measures.

(a) A person who commits criminal contempt, whether direct or indirect, is subject to censure, imprisonment up to 30 days, fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or any combination of the three, except that:

(1) A person who commits a contempt described in G.S. 5A-11(8) is subject to censure, imprisonment not to exceed 6 months, fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or any combination of the three;

(2) A person who has not been arrested who fails to comply with a nontestimonial identification order, issued pursuant to Article 14 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes is subject to censure, imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or any combination of the three; and

(3) A person who commits criminal contempt by failing to comply with an order to pay child support is subject to censure, imprisonment up to 30 days, fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or any combination of the three. However, a sentence of imprisonment up to 120 days may be imposed for a single act of criminal contempt resulting from the failure to pay child support, provided the sentence is suspended upon conditions reasonably related to the contemnor's payment of child support.

(b) Except for contempt under G.S. 5A-11(5) or 5A-11(9), fine or imprisonment may not be imposed for criminal contempt, whether direct or indirect, unless:

(1) The act or omission was willfully contemptuous; or

(2) The act or omission was preceded by a clear warning by the court that the conduct is improper.

(c) The judicial official who finds a person in contempt may at any time withdraw a censure, terminate or reduce a sentence of imprisonment, or remit or reduce a fine imposed as punishment for contempt if warranted by the conduct of the contemnor and the ends of justice.

(d) A person held in criminal contempt under this Article shall not, for the same conduct, be found in civil contempt under Article 2 of this Chapter, Civil Contempt.

(e) A person held in criminal contempt under G.S. 5A-11(9) may nevertheless, for the same conduct, be found guilty of a violation of G.S. 14-225.1, but he must be given credit for any imprisonment resulting from the contempt. (1977, c. 711, s. 3; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 843, s. 1; 1987 (Reg. Sess., 1988), c. 1040, ss. 2, 4; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1039, s. 4; 1991, c. 686, s. 3; 1999-361, s. 3; 2009-335, s. 1.)

§ 5A-13. Direct and indirect criminal contempt; proceedings required.

(a) Criminal contempt is direct criminal contempt when the act:

(1) Is committed within the sight or hearing of a presiding judicial official; and

(2) Is committed in, or in immediate proximity to, the room where proceedings are being held before the court; and

(3) Is likely to interrupt or interfere with matters then before the court.

The presiding judicial official may punish summarily for direct criminal contempt according to the requirements of G.S. 5A-14 or may defer adjudication and sentencing as provided in G.S. 5A-15. If proceedings for direct criminal contempt are deferred, the judicial official must, immediately following the conduct, inform the person of his intention to institute contempt proceedings.

(b) Any criminal contempt other than direct criminal contempt is indirect criminal contempt and is punishable only after proceedings in accordance with the procedure required by G.S. 5A-15. (1977, c. 711, s. 3.)

Additional resources provided by the author

5A-14. Summary proceedings for contempt. (a) The presiding judicial official may summarily impose measures in response to direct criminal contempt when necessary to restore order or maintain the dignity and authority of the court and when the measures are imposed substantially contemporaneously with the contempt. (b) Before imposing measures under this section, the judicial official must give the person charged with contempt summary notice of the charges and a summary opportunity to respond and must find facts supporting the summary imposition of measures in response to contempt. The facts must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. (1977, c. 711, s. 3.) § 5A-15. Plenary proceedings for contempt. (a) When a judicial official chooses not to proceed summarily against a person charged with direct criminal contempt or when he may not proceed summarily, he may proceed by an order directing the person to appear before a judge at a reasonable time specified in the order and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court. A copy of the order must be furnished to the person charged. If the criminal contempt is based upon acts before a judge which so involve him that his objectivity may reasonably be questioned, the order must be returned before a different judge. (b) Proceedings under this section are before a district court judge unless a court superior to the district court issued the order, in which case the proceedings are before that court. Venue lies throughout the district court district as defined in G.S. 7A-133 or superior court district or set of districts as defined in G.S. 7A-41.1, as the case may be, where the order was issued. (c) The person ordered to show cause may move to dismiss the order. (d) The judge is the trier of facts at the show cause hearing. (e) The person charged with contempt may not be compelled to be a witness against himself in the hearing. (f) At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge must enter a finding of guilty or not guilty. If the person is found to be in contempt, the judge must make findings of fact and enter judgment. The facts must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. (g) The judge presiding over the hearing may appoint a prosecutor or, in the event of an apparent conflict of interest, some other member of the bar to represent the court in hearings for criminal contempt. (1977, c. 711, s. 3; 1987 (Reg. Sess., 1988), c. 1037, s. 44.)

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