Question: Can You Say, “NO” To A Warrant Issued By A Judge?
Answer: You can if you want to be held in contempt of court!
Officers stopped Defendant for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Defendant was transported to the county lockup and refused the certified breath test. The officers contacted a prosecutor and requested his help in obtaining a search warrant for a blood draw. The officer completed the probable cause affidavit and the prosecutor faxed the probable cause affidavit and application for a search warrant to the trial judge on call. A short time later, the warrant arrived, signed by the judge. Once a warrant is obtained, a jail nurse comes down to the lockup to draw the blood. While waiting for the nurse to arrive, Defendant was handed the warrant to read. At the same time, prosecutor explained the consequences of his refusal to take the certified breath test, including the possibility of being held in contempt in case of non-cooperation. During the reading of the warrant and hearing an explanation, Defendant became more and more agitated. Defendant then stood up, turned around, and started to pick up his chair. Defendant glared at the prosecutor and began moving toward him with the chair. The officer ordered him to sit down and when he refused to comply, the officer took “him down to the ground” and handcuffed him. After the struggle and based on Defendant’s actions, it was determined that Defendant was not agreeing to submit to a blood draw. The State then filed an Information charging Defendant with contempt of court. The trial court conducted a bench trial and found him guilty as charged and sentenced him to 90 days in jail. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by finding him in contempt of court, because the prosecutor decided to call off the blood draw prior to the nurse’s arrival, he did not willfully resist, hinder, or delay the execution of the trial court’s warrant. The Court of Appeals noted that contempt proceedings may generally be categorized as civil or criminal, according to the nature and purpose of the sanction imposed. A civil contempt is a violation of a court order resulting in a proceeding for the benefit of the aggrieved party. As such, any type of penalty in a civil contempt proceeding must be coercive or remedial in nature. By contrast, a criminal contempt is an act directed against the dignity and authority of the court that obstructs the administration of justice and tends to bring the court into disrepute. Accordingly, a criminal contempt sanction is punitive in nature because its purpose is to vindicate the authority of the court, and it benefits the State rather than the aggrieved party. The contempt in this case was clearly criminal in nature, inasmuch as the Defendant’s refusal to comply with the court’s order to submit to a blood draw was an act directed against the authority of the court and his sanction was punitive in nature. Further, Contempt may also be direct or indirect. Direct contempt, on the one hand, involves an action in the presence of the court, such that the court has personal knowledge of it. Indirect contempt, on the other hand, undermines the orders or activities of the court but involves actions outside the trial court’s personal knowledge. Here, the contempt at issue is indirect as Defendant’s actions leading to the contempt charge occurred outside the courtroom.
Based on his uncooperative actions, it can be reasonably inferred that the Defendant had no intent to comply with the trial court’s order to submit to a blood draw. As his act was clearly directed against the authority of the court and hindered the execution of the trial court’s warrant, the trial court properly held Defendant in contempt. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by declaring Defendant in contempt of court. 6 N.E.3d 485