Punitive vs Remedial
Motions for contempt come in two different forms: punitive or remedial. Punitive contempt seeks to punish the contemnor (the person engaging in contempt) for their failure to comply with court orders. Remedial contempt, on the other hand, seeks to achieve compliance with court orders. Because these types of contempt seek to accomplish different ends, there are different requirements for each.
Burdens & Factors
Proving remedial contempt is different than proving punitive contempt. Proving remedial contempt requires a party to demonstrate that the contemnor: (1) did not comply with a lawful order of the court; (2) knew of the order; and (3) has the present ability to comply with the order. Further, the level of proof required under this demonstration is by a preponderance of the evidence.
Punitive contempt has a higher burden of proof. Punitive contempt elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are: (1) the existence of a lawful order of the court; (2) the contemnor’s knowledge of the order; (3) the contemnor’s ability to comply with the order; and (4) the contemnor’s willful refusal to comply with the order.