Under New York’s Penal Law Article 215, there are four types of contempt adjudications : summary criminal contempt, summary civil contempt, non-summary criminal contempt and non-summary civil contempt.
Criminal contempt is the willful violation of ac court order or mandate. The maximum punishment is 30 days in jail or $1,000 fine, or, in rare cases, both. Under Corrections Law 804, a summary criminal contempt adjudication is not a definite sentence u, therefore, no “good time” credit accrues.
Civil Contempt, on the other hand, is the violation of a court order that prejudices the rights of a party. The maximum punishment is a $250 fine payable to the party aggrieved and actual damages, or six months in jail, or both. Under New York’s Judiciary Law 753, 754, and 756, civil contempt is described in greater detail. The party seeking civil contempt may be entitled to attorneys fees.
The court may choose to hold a party in contempt, a witness, an attorney, a spectator, or a prospective juror.
Contempt proceedings are particularly common in Erie County Family Court where the process is streamlined and made easier. While this has made it easier than ever before to obtain a contempt charge in certain situations, many claim the system requires greater protections to protect the individual’s lie. in the opposite direction which has resulted in the growing perception that some additional safeguards may be needed.
Also keep in mind, while the court may order sanctions sua sponte, if a judge improperly uses the criminal contempt power, he or she may be disciplined.