California Penal Code Section 166 PC: Violating A Court Order

California Penal Code Section 166 PC: Violating A Court Order

Getting into trouble with the law is never fun. But when the trouble involves violating a court order, things can get real serious, real fast. Penal Code Section 166 PC is the California law that makes it a crime to disobey or resist a lawful court order. This includes things like restraining orders, child custody orders, and orders to appear in court. Violating one of these orders can land you in jail for up to a year!

We get it – court orders can be confusing. And no one wants to end up behind bars over a misunderstanding. This article breaks down 166 PC step-by-step. Read on to learn what counts as “contempt of court,” how to fight the charges, and most importantly, how to avoid violating a court order in the first place.

What is Penal Code Section 166 PC?

Penal Code 166 PC is California’s contempt of court law. It makes it a crime to willfully disobey any lawful court order. The law says you can be punished if you:

  • Are loud or disruptive while court is in session
  • Disobey a judge’s order to be sworn in as a witness
  • Refuse to answer questions while under oath
  • Disobey a subpoena to appear in court
  • Violate a protective order
  • Violate a child custody or visitation order
  • Violate any other lawful court order

Violating 166 PC is a misdemeanor offense. But if someone gets hurt because of your violation, it becomes a wobbler. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

The maximum sentence for misdemeanor contempt of court is 1 year in county jail. Felony contempt of court carries up to 3 years in state prison. Fines up to $1,000 are possible too.

Real Life Examples of Violating 166 PC

Wondering what this law looks like in real life? Here are some examples of behavior that could lead to contempt of court charges:

  • Jose and Maria are going through a messy divorce. The judge orders Jose to stay 100 yards away from Maria at all times. But Jose keeps showing up at Maria’s workplace anyway.
  • Jamal is called to testify as a witness in his friend Andre’s trial. When the judge tells Jamal to be sworn in, Jamal refuses.
  • Amber files a restraining order against her abusive ex-boyfriend Greg. The judge grants the order and warns Greg not to go near Amber. But Greg keeps texting Amber threats anyway.
  • Kiana and Dave have joint custody of their 5-year-old son. The custody order says Kiana gets their son on weekends. But one weekend, Dave refuses to drop him off with Kiana.

In all these scenarios, the people who violated the court orders could face contempt charges per 166 PC.

What Are the Defenses to 166 PC?

No one should be wrongly convicted under California’s contempt of court law. The good news is there are several legal defenses you can raise if you’ve been accused of violating Penal Code 166 PC.

Here are 3 common defenses:

  1. You didn’t “willfully” violate the order. – To be guilty under 166 PC, you have to willfully violate the court order. This means you knew about the order, but chose to violate it anyway. So for example, if you never got properly served with the order, you can’t be convicted of willfully violating it.
  2. The order was invalid or unconstitutional. – You can’t be convicted for violating an order that was unlawful in the first place. For example, if a judge’s custody order violates your parental rights, you may not have to follow it.
  3. You violated the order by accident. – Contempt of court requires intent. So if you accidentally show up somewhere you were banned from, it’s not a crime.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you understand and assert your rights in court. Never try to fight these charges alone.

Staying Out of Trouble: How to Obey a Court Order

The best way to avoid a 166 PC charge is by obeying all court orders. Here are some tips:

  • Read the order carefully. Make sure you understand exactly what’s prohibited. For example, does a restraining order only ban contacting someone, or being near them too?
  • Follow the order to a T. Don’t try looking for loopholes or pushing boundaries. Play it safe.
  • Avoid risky situations. Don’t go places the protected person might show up. Cross the street if you see them coming.
  • Save the order. Keep a copy on you and give one to people who can help enforce it like your employer or building manager.
  • Contact the court with issues. If anything is unclear or you want the order changed, go through proper legal channels.

Obeying a court order might feel inconvenient or even unfair sometimes. But violating one will only make your situation much worse. Protect your future and freedom by following the rules.

Dealing with the justice system is scary. But knowledge is power. We hope this breakdown of Penal Code 166 PC – California’s contempt of court law – helps you make smart choices. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a lawyer if you need personalized advice or defense.