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Cedar Rapids OWI (DUI) and Criminal Defense Lawyer: What is 'contempt

in criminal probation?

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC

So, you’re on probation for a criminal matter, perhaps an OWI (DUI) criminal case from a year or two ago, and you were arrested for a failure to fulfill either substantive or financial conditions of your probation.


In other words, you got an “invite” to court courtesy of the judge and law enforcement, a free ride by way of the jail, to appear in court to answer for the alleged probation violations. Short answer: warrant.


At your initial appearance, the Court advised that you are alleged to have violated probation and set the matter for a “combined” hearing to decide both the merits of the allegation and, if founded, what should occur.


In the merits phase, the State must prove by a “preponderance,” or, approximately 51 to 49 percent, that you violated your probation. In other words, the judge need only believe that you probably violated probation—not that you violated it beyond a reasonable doubt—in order to revoke probation and impose the original sentence or revoke a deferred judgment.


There is another option and that is called a “contempt sanction.” This option allows the prosecutor, the probationer, and the court to impose a sentence different from, and in addition to, the original sentence, without revoking probation, allowing the defendant to continue on probation or on a deferred judgment.


Technically, the judge needs to be sure of a willful violation of a court order beyond a reasonable doubt—but many times a defendant will stipulate to such a finding in order to avoid a much greater penalty.


A judge sitting without a jury in the State of Iowa may impose a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine up to $500 for contempt. The parties can agree to recommend to the judge that any number of days be imposed up to and including that number—but usually the incentive for the defendant is that the contempt sentence will be less than the earlier imposed suspended sentence that might be imposed if probation is revoked.


If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI (DUI) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Anamosa, Vinton, Waterloo, or anywhere else in Linn, Johnson, Jones, Benton, Black Hawk, or other Iowa counties, please contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC, 319-389-1889,, for a free ½ hour initial consultation today. Remember that a blog is not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet. 

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When the hammer falls ​the judge has the power to impose a contempt sanction, or, sentence, for a willful violation of any court order. No jury needs to be empaneled but the court must find beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a violation and it was intentional. This can be a useful tool in negotiating an outcome to a probation revocation where the sentence is longer than a negotiated contempt sentence-- and where it would be ideal to continue with probation instead of having it revoked, like with a deferred judgment. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community, contact contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC today for an initial consultation.


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