State v. Austin

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 03-02-2016
  • Case #: A157364
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Devore, J., for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; & Flynn, J.

A trial court may not impose punitive sanctions in a remedial contempt proceeding.

CIRN, Inc. was a creditor of Defendant. Defendant was ordered to appear at a debtor’s examination. She appeared but did not bring financial documents with her; the examination was postponed. Defendant failed to appear for the second examination; CIRN moved to compel Defendant to show why she should not be held in contempt. The trial court granted the motion and ordered Defendant to show cause. The sanctions she faced were $500 fine per day during contempt, up to six months’ confinement during contempt, and probation. Defendant effectively “plead guilty” to contempt, but the trial court’s judgment gave her “punitive” contempt and imposed 12 months of probation and $500 in fines regardless of whether Defendant resolved the contempt. Defendant appealed the judgment, arguing the trial court plainly erred by imposing punitive sanctions. The Court compared the case to Altenhofen, in which the Court held that punitive contempt sanctions “‘entail[] a risk of probation violation proceedings and sanctions to which [D]efendant would not otherwise be subject.’” The court concluded from this analysis that the trial court erred by imposing punitive sanctions for remedial contempt. Reversed and remanded.

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