The penalties for disobeying a court order vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the order and may include fines, time in jail, and the issuance of a bench warrant to compel the person to appear in court. If a court order appears to be impossible to obey, the subject should discuss the matter with the judge to reach a resolution, rather than simply fail to comply with it. Attorneys can assist people with the process of reading through a court order and determining how to respond.
Court orders are legal documents mandating a person or organization to engage in a particular action, like paying child support or providing proof of insurance. They can also work in reverse, ordering people not to do something; a court order could, for example, take the form of an injunction ordering a company to stop selling a given product until the court has had a chance to hear a consumer suit.
In some cases, the penalty for a violation is a fine, with the judge determining the amount on the basis of the contents of the court order. In cases where the order was a demand to pay compensatory funds to someone, the judge can require the subject to pay interest on the money in addition to paying the principal balance. People who receive a judgment against them with an order to pay money but know they cannot pay it should meet with the court to discuss a payment plan and other options.
In the case of an order to appear in court, the judge can issue a bench warrant to make the person show up. Police officers and other law enforcement will receive a copy of the warrant, and they can bring the person into court to face a hearing. The warrant will remain outstanding until the subject appears in court, and in some regions having an outstanding warrant may make it difficult to pass background checks or do things like registering a car.
Jail time is also an option in some instances. Judges can opt for jail time when failure to comply with an order results in a disruption to the court or the judge feels the subject is disrespecting the court. The length of the sentence varies. Some judges may also mandate community service. This information will go on a person's record and can become an issue in the future.