Code of the District of Columbia

§ 11–944. Contempt power.

(a) Subject to the limitation described in subsection (b), and in addition to the powers conferred by section 402 of title 18, United States Code, the Superior Court, or a judge thereof, may punish for disobedience of an order or for contempt committed in the presence of the court.

(b)(1) In any proceeding for custody of a minor child conducted in the Family Division of the Superior Court under paragraph (1) or (4) of section 11-1101, no individual may be imprisoned for civil contempt for more than 12 months (except as provided in paragraph (2)), pursuant to the contempt power described in subsection (a), for disobedience of an order or for contempt committed in the presence of the court. This limitation does not apply to imprisonment for criminal contempt or for any other criminal violation.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), an individual who is charged with criminal contempt pursuant to paragraph (3) may continue to be imprisoned for civil contempt until the completion of such individual’s trial for criminal contempt, except that in no case may such an individual be imprisoned for more than 18 consecutive months for civil contempt pursuant to the contempt power described in subsection (a).

(3)(A) An individual imprisoned for 6 consecutive months for civil contempt for disobedience of an order in a proceeding described in paragraph (1) who continues to disobey such order may be prosecuted for criminal contempt for disobedience of such order at any time before the expiration of the 12-month period that begins on the first day of such individual’s imprisonment, except that an individual so imprisoned as of the date of the enactment of this subsection may be prosecuted under this subsection at any time during the 90-day period that begins on the date of the enactment of this subsection.

(B) The trial of an individual prosecuted for criminal contempt pursuant to this paragraph —

(i) shall begin not later than 90 days after the date on which such individual is charged with criminal contempt;

(ii) shall, upon the request of the individual, be a trial by jury; and

(iii) may not be conducted before the judge who imprisoned the individual for disobedience of an order pursuant to subsection (a).


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 487, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 111; Sept. 23, 1989, 103 Stat. 633, Pub. L. 101-97, § 2(a).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-944.

1973 Ed., § 11-944.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 5-721.