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Middle Finger to Judge Gets Fla. Woman 30 Days in Jail

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Penelope Soto may have been blowing off steam when she gave a judge the middle finger, but he didn't take it kindly. In response to her disrespect, the judge put her in jail for 30 days on a contempt charge.

Soto was arrested for drug possession when she was allegedly found with Xanax in Florida. On Monday, she had a hearing with Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

The hearing was only intended to determine the appropriate bail. But one thing led to another, and now Soto is going to spend time behind bars before her case is even heard.

At the bail hearing, Judge Rodriguez-Chomat asked Soto about her assets including the value of her jewelry, reports Miami's WTVJ-TV. When she laughed in response, he admonished her to take the question seriously.

At the close of the hearing, the judge determined that $5,000 was an appropriate amount for bail based on Soto's assets. But she laughed again on her way out the door.

The judge, annoyed by her flippancy, called her back and doubled the bail amount. For once, she took it seriously -- but her behavior didn't improve.

Rather than laughing, she flipped the judge the bird. That resulted in a charge for contempt and a 30-day jail sentence.

Contempt is a charge that can only be brought in court. It's brought by the judge, rather than a prosecutor, when someone disrespects the dignity of the court. There are two types of contempt:

  • Someone can be held in civil contempt for failing to comply with court orders or various paperwork deadlines. You can shorten your sentence by complying with the order.
  • Criminal contempt, on the other hand, is reserved for people who show disrespect to the court separate from missing administrative requirements. There's no shortening a criminal contempt sentence with good behavior. The damage is already done.

Things like using offensive language, ignoring the judge's request for silence, or otherwise insulting the court are what will get you in trouble. In general, judges have a lot of discretion when holding someone in contempt.

Like any criminal charge, it must be proven, and you have a right to defend yourself. But unlike other charges, a sentence for contempt can begin immediately, even before the case is heard.

That means Soto will be waiting in jail for her hearing on the contempt charges -- not to mention the extra bail that her behavior earned.

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