Recently, in the Saratoga Springs Justice Court, a woman who has never been convicted of even the smallest crime, was put in jail for 24 hours because she was recording the court proceeding, in which her son was the defendant, with her cell phone. The woman was a self-admitted terrible note taker and chose to record the proceeding as her means of note taking?
Court security saw her phone out and told her she could not record. She promptly turned it off, but kept the phone in her hand. Since the phone remained in her hand court security notified the prosecutor that she was recording again. She wasn’t. She was immediately arrested and then brought before the judge who put her in jail for 24 hours.
Convicted of Criminal Contempt
What was her crime? Criminal contempt, which is a summary proceeding which allows a judge to place someone in jail for up to 30 days if the person commits an enumerated offense in the immediate presence of the judge. The problem with this situation was that the judge could never have known that she was recording on his own accord. He had to be notified by court security. Thus, it did not occur in his immediate presence.
Violation of Due Process?
Even is this judge could have known the suburban mom was recording on her phone, she should not have been sent to jail. Most first time DUI offenders do not spend anytime in jail. Most first time drug offenders do not spend any time in jail.
This situation is an example of how criminal contempt can be abused by judges. Criminal contempt which permits the judge to place the contemnor in jail without a trial by jury or an evidentiary hearing should be declared unconstitutional as a violation of due process. Liberty is too important to be allowed to be taken away at the whim of a judge who is easily offended.
Salcido Law Firm Defends Liberty
Our Utah criminal defense lawyers are committed to defending liberty regardless of stakes. Call us at 801.618.1334 or email us if you have been charged with a crime, and we’ll get you in to talk to an attorney.