Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Criminal Contempt v. Civil Contempt

In People v. Godoy, this Court made a distinction between criminal and civil contempt. The Court declared:
A criminal contempt is conduct that is directed against the dignity and authority of the court or a judge acting judicially; it is an act obstructing the administration of justice which tends to bring the court into disrepute or disrespect. On the other hand, civil contempt consists in failing to do something ordered to be done by a court in a civil action for the benefit of the opposing party therein and is, therefore, an offense against the party in whose behalf the violated order is made.

A criminal contempt, being directed against the dignity and authority of the court, is an offense against organized society and, in addition, is also held to be an offense against public justice which raises an issue between the public and the accused, and the proceedings to punish it are punitive. On the other hand, the proceedings to punish a civil contempt are remedial and for the purpose of the preservation of the right of private persons. It has been held that civil contempt is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor, but a power of the court.
It has further been stated that intent is a necessary element in criminal contempt, and that no one can be punished for a criminal contempt unless the evidence makes it clear that he intended to commit it. On the contrary, there is authority indicating that since the purpose of civil contempt proceedings is remedial, the defendant’s intent in committing the contempt is immaterial. Hence, good faith or the absence of intent to violate the court’s order is not a defense in civil contempt.

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