Man’s contempt order for bail violation reversed on appeal

A northern Indiana trial court’s contempt order against a man who violated a condition of bail was an abuse of discretion, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, reversing the order.

Cameron Hunter was released on bail pending criminal charges against him before Kosciusko Superior Judge David C. Cates. At a plea hearing, Hunter sought to postpone consideration of a guilty plea to determine if he was eligible for community corrections. The court continued the hearing and modified conditions of Hunter’s bail, specifying he was not to be around anyone younger than 18.  

After Hunter left the courthouse with his girlfriend, his minor sister and a 16-year-old female, the state filed a petition, and after a hearing, the court determined Hunter was in contempt and ordered him to serve 180 days in jail.

A panel of the COA reversed in Cameron Hunter v. State of Indiana, 43A03-1711-CR-2633, finding the contempt order was an abuse of discretion because “Hunter’s conduct did not rise to the level of punishable criminal contempt” and didn’t affect the dignity or operation of the court, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel.

“Hunter failed to comply with a condition of his bail. Under such circumstances, an appropriate remedy was to revoke bail — a remedy the State should have sought in accordance with the controlling statute,” the panel concluded.

In footnotes, the panel noted that in February it had granted Hunter’s motion for recognizance bond pending appeal and remanded for a hearing and determination on an appropriate bond. It also outlined the proper procedures for trial courts to follow in contempt proceedings and cautioned judicial officers to “exercise their extraordinary contempt powers with the utmost sense of responsibility and circumspection … and, in selecting contempt sanctions, exercise the least-possible power adequate to the end proposed.”

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