California Penal Code Section 166 PC: Violating A Court Order

court order violation

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

California Penal Code Section 166 PC prohibits a wide variety of behavior that could be considered “contempt of court,” including being excessively noisy during a court hearing, refusing to be sworn in as a witness or refusing to comply with a request from a judge. However, the most serious and commonly-charged violation of this statute occurs when someone intentionally violates a Court Order, which can include Protective Orders, Restraining Orders and Stay-Away Orders issued in Domestic Violence cases.

In order to prove that a defendant Violated a Court Order under Penal Code 166 PC, a prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  1. That a court had issued a lawful written order
  2. The defendant knew about the court order
  3. The defendant had the ability to follow the court order
  4. AND the defendant willfully violated the court order

While this statute applies to any protective order or stay-away order issued by a court, it would not apply to a person who violates a condition of probation, which is a legal court order. These violations are handled separately in Probation Violation Hearings and are specifically excluded from prosecution under Penal Code 166 PC.

2. Examples

A man has been charged with Domestic Battery in violation of California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC and while the charges are pending, he has been ordered by the Court to stay away from the victim, his girlfriend. The man receives a text message from the girlfriend stating that she is no longer angry and wants to reconcile. The man goes to his girlfriend’s house to try and mend the relationship and is caught by police while there. The man can be prosecuted for Violating a Court Order under Penal Code Section 166 PC even though his girlfriend initiated contact and reached out to him.

In another example, two participants in a brawl have been ordered to stay away from each other while each is facing charges of Battery under California Penal Code Section 242 PC. The two men unexpectedly run into each other at the mall one weekend while the court order is still valid. Neither would be criminally liable for Violating a Court Order, as the violation was not willful.

3. Related Offenses

Violating a Restraining Order under California Penal Code Section 273.6 PC is a similar offense, with the only difference being that Penal Code 166 PC is a broader statute that applies to the violation of any court order or any action that can be considered contempt of court. Penal Code 273.6 PC only covers the violation of Protective Orders.

4. Defenses to Violating a Court Order Charges

Obviously, the statute requires that the violation be willful, therefore if someone accidentally runs into someone they are prohibited from contacting by court order, that person would not be criminally liable. However, courts and prosecutors are very suspicious about “accidental” run-ins, especially when they occur in Domestic Violence cases.

In addition, this is an offense in which False Accusations may be common, especially where there is a soured relationship and the protected party may have reason to want to cause trouble for the other party.

5. Penalties

Most of the violations of Penal Code 166 PC are misdemeanors that can carry a sentence of up to six months in jail and hefty court fines. However, certain violations will cause increased penalties.

For those who are accused of violating a Protective Order or Stay-Away order issued in a Domestic Violence offense or Elder Abuse offense, the maximum punishment can be a year in jail. If the victim is injured as a result of the violation, there is a minimum sentence of at least two days in jail, in addition to whatever charges may be filed regarding the injury.

Any subsequent conviction for Violating a Protective Order for a Domestic Violence offense or Elder Abuse offense is considered a “wobbler” offense, which means that a prosecutor can charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony a defendant can face up to three years in prison.

In addition, for defendants accused of possessing a firearm in violation of a court order, this offense is also considered a “wobbler” and is punishable by up to three years in prison.

6. Criminal Defense for Violating a Court Order Cases

Violating a Court Order is a serious offense that may have an entirely innocent explanation. Because of this, it is critical to speak with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately if you or someone you know have been accused of or charged with this offense. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience and is highly respected throughout the court system for his legal expertise and litigation skills.

For more information about Violating a Court Order, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

Share |
Featured on CNN
ABC News
NBC News
Los Angeles Times
CBS News
The New York Times
Us Weekly
Entertainment Tonight
Good Morning America
Legal Broadcast Network
Avvo Rating 10.0
Client Reviews
Michael Kraut is outstanding! He genuinely cared about my case and instructed my mom and I throughout the entire process. He was very clear on what he needed in order to receive the best results. He kept us updated until the end. I thank him so much for getting my charges rejected. I highly recommend him to anyone with legal needs! Shaquan
I contacted Michael with concern for my personal and business reputation. He was very reassuring and confident the entire time. After about 3 weeks it was determined that no charges were being filed by any agency and I was in the clear of any investigation. One thing that is amazing is just how FAST Michael is at replying to phone calls, texts, and even emails! We are talking under 30 minutes in most cases. That is unheard of for most attorneys! Michael is incredible and not your typical run of the mill attorney. For best results hire him if you feel like you might be under investigation or could face charges. Even if you know you are innocent it is best to take care of the smoke before it becomes a fire. Brad
Michael Kraut is-hands down-the best criminal defense attorney and I can't begin to thank him for all that he did for me and my family. I reached out to him in the middle of the night and less than a couple hours later, he had gotten back to me and scheduled a meeting. He's a no-nonsense attorney who knows how to get the job done! From the second we retained him, I had peace of mind in knowing that we were in the best hands possible. If Michael Kraut couldn't get it done, I knew that it couldn't be done at all. You can't put a price tag on your freedom. He was worth every single penny. Lida
Michael Kraut is an outstanding attorney. He was extremely professional, and straightforward, yet sensitive with my case. I am confident I made the right choice by hiring Michael. I highly recommend him to anyone seeking a truly experienced lawyer. Daniel
Michael Kraut - I cannot thank you enough for all that you did for ​my son. When I came to you I read that you used to be a district attorney but I never knew how much that meant until I watch you in court. I knew it took 3 months but the final day when I heard the judge say that all charges were dismissed it was all worth it! I will always be grateful for all that you did for us. A.N.