Criminal Contempt of Court in Georgia

Criminal Contempt of Court in Georgia

Young Thug’s Attorney Held in Contempt

Last month, during the racketeering trial of rapper Young Thug (real name Jeffery Lamar Williams), his attorney, Brian Steel, was found in contempt of court by Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville. The incident stemmed from a disagreement over the source of Steel's knowledge regarding a private meeting between the judge, prosecutors, and a key witness, Kenneth Copeland.

Steel claimed he learned of a meeting where the judge and prosecutors allegedly pressured Copeland, also known as Lil Woody, to testify against Young Thug. Judge Glanville demanded Steel reveal his source, but Steel refused, citing attorney-client privilege and "work product" privilege. This refusal to disclose the source of his information led to the contempt of court finding.

Steel's stance was that the meeting itself raised ethical concerns, as Young Thug's defense was not present. The judge, on the other hand, argued the information Steel possessed was confidential and should not have been revealed. The judge sentenced Steel to spend ten weekends (i.e., 20 days) in jail.

What Is Contempt of Court?

Being found in contempt of court in criminal court signifies a judge's ruling that a person has undermined the court's authority or disrupted its proceedings. There are two primary categories of contempt:

  • Direct contempt occurs when disrespectful or disruptive behavior happens in the courtroom itself, within the judge's immediate presence.
  • Indirect contempt, on the other hand, involves actions outside the courtroom that still hinder the court's function, such as disobeying a court order.

Some actions that can lead to a contempt of court charge include:

  • Disruptive or disrespectful behavior in court. This includes yelling, outbursts, threats, or any action that disrupts the orderly flow of proceedings.
  • Disobeying a lawful court order. This could involve failing to appear in court, violating a restraining order, or refusing to pay court-ordered fines.
  • Tampering with evidence or witnesses. This encompasses actions that attempt to influence a witness' testimony or impede the presentation of evidence.
  • Publishing prejudicial information. Releasing information to the public that could taint the jury pool or sway public opinion on a case before it concludes can be considered contempt.

Is Contempt of Court a Felony in Georgia?

No. With criminal contempt charges, Georgia imposes a fine of up to $500 and 20 days in jail. Based on these penalties, contempt of court is a misdemeanor offense.

Are You Entitled to a Lawyer for a Contempt Case?

Yes, in instances where you have been accused of committing indirect contempt, you can have counsel. With a direct contempt charge, the act/violation occurs in court, in front of the judge, and legally, judges only have to give the accused and/or their counsel a chance to apologize for the actions. If the apology or explanation for the contemptuous act is inadequate or not offered, the judge can find you in contempt.

Get Defense Counsel

If you have been accused of disrupting court proceedings, disobeying a court order, or tampering with evidence, our experienced legal team can guide you through the legal process. In addition to defending contempt of court charges, our attorneys can also advise you on proper courtroom etiquette and protocol to help you avoid such situations altogether.

Get in touch with our attorneys online or via phone at (866) 580-3089.