Direct Criminal Contempt

Rule 3.830 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure describes the rules and procedures applicable to a charge of direct criminal contempt.  Rule 3.830 provides as follows:

[a] criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the court saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt committed in the actual presence of the court. The judgment of guilt of contempt shall include a recital of those facts upon which the adjudication of guilt is based.

Prior to the adjudication of guilt the judge shall inform the defendant of the accusation against him and inquire as to whether he has any cause to show why he should not be adjudged guilty of contempt by the Court and sentenced therefor.

The defendant shall be given the opportunity to present evidence of excusing or mitigating circumstances. The judgment shall be signed by the judge and entered of record. Sentence shall be pronounced in open court.

In order to protect the due process rights of the defendant, this rule and the statutory requirements must be strictly followed. For example, prior to an adjudication of guilt, the judge shall inform the defendant of the accusation and give him/her the opportunity to show cause why her or she should not be adjudged guilty of contempt by the court.

The defendant must also be given an opportunity to present evidence of excusing or mitigation circumstances before sentencing. Rule 3.830 Fla. R. Crim. P. Direct criminal contempt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The trial court’s direct contempt conviction is invalid if there is no written judgment reciting the facts on which the adjudication of guilt is based. Morris v. State, 667 So. 2d 982, 987 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).

Failure to strictly comply with the requirements of the rule for direct criminal contempt proceedings constitutes a fundamental error. Bonet v. State, 937 So.2d 209, (Fla. 3d DCA 2006).

Therefore, if the trial court fails to adhere to the strict procedural requirements of Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.830, the correct remedy is to reverse and remand with instructions for a new contempt hearing that complies with the rule. Id.

Attorney for Direct Criminal Contempt in Florida

If you were accused of direct criminal contempt, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. We can help you present defenses at the hearing or file an appeal if you are found in contempt.

Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, FL. We also have additional offices in New Port Richey and Clearwater, FL.

Don’t face the judge alone. Call 813-250-0500.

The Two Elements of Direct Criminal Contempt

Direct criminal contempt requires two elements:

  • certain requisite conduct; and
  • the presence of the court.

The requisite conduct for direct criminal contempt is defined as an action calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the administration of justice or to lessen the court’s authority or dignity.

Can I be held in contempt for not giving up the password to my cell phone?

If the police ask for the password to open your cell phone, do you have to provide it? The answer is no. You can invoke your right to remain silent and still. In some cases, the prosecutor might file a motion in court asking the judge to require you to provide your cell phone password. If so, you need a criminal defense attorney to represent you during any such hearing.

Your attorney can argue that being held in contempt for refusing to provide the password to your iPhone or another type of smartphone might constitute compulsion of potentially testimonial evidence.

In State v. Stahl, 206 So. 3d 124, 136-37 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016), the court granted the State’s certiorari petition to compel the accused individual to provide the passcode to his iPhone that was the subject of a search warrant. In that case, not all of the proper objections were raised in front of the judge or on appeal.

In Garcia v. State, 302 So. 3d 1051, 1055, 1057 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020), the court found that the law conflicted with the Stahl decision and concluded that “the order under review requires that [the defendant] utilize the contents of his mind and disclose specific information regarding the passcode that will likely lead to incriminating information that the State will then use against him at trial.”

Likewise, in Pollard v. State, 287 So. 3d 649, 656 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019), the court found that the “application of Stahl is inconsistent with protection of a defendant’s right against self-incrimination in situations where a defendant has not given up his testimonial privilege in the password itself.”

In G.A.Q.L. v. State, 257 So. 3d 1058, 1061-62 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the court found that “revealing one’s password requires more than just a physical act; instead, it probes into the contents of an individual’s mind and therefore implicates the Fifth Amendment. . . . Thus, being forced to produce a password is testimonial and can violate the Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination.”

This article was last updated on Friday, July 29, 2022