A contempt of court charge can result in a fine or a jail term of definite or indefinite length. Typically, these charges occur either when someone acts disrespectfully toward the court or refuses to obey a court order. In the latter case, defendants can be jailed until they comply with the order.
Contempt of court can be direct or indirect. Direct contempt concerns an act performed in the presence of the court, such as speaking out of turn, insulting the judge or other demonstration of disrespect for the court's authority. These actions usually result in fines, but repeated infractions may incur a short jail term. Indirect contempt concerns something outside the courtroom, such as a refusal to turn over property or produce a witness. In these cases, subjects may be jailed until they obey the court's order.
Contempt of court can also be civil or criminal in nature. Civil contempt involves disobeying a court order, while criminal contempt may be invoked in cases of obstruction of justice or other irreversible acts. In the case of a criminal act of contempt, the judge may issue a fine or jail sentence commensurate to the crime once it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.