THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.
THE STATE OF
Autumn LaDawn Davis, f/k/a Autumn LaDawn Young, Respondent,
Jimmy Bruce Young, Appellant.
William J. Wylie, Jr., Family Court Judge
Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-396
Submitted May 1, 2005 – Filed June 15, 2005
Cynthia Bailey Berry, of Orangeburg, for Appellant.
Thomas E. Elliott, Jr., of
Columbia, for Respondent.
PER CURIAM: Jimmy Bruce Young appeals the family court’s order holding him in contempt of a restraining order. We affirm.
Autumn LaDawn Davis and Young were divorced on May 27, 2003. In the final divorce decree, the family court ordered: “each of the parties shall be, and  is hereby, enjoined and restrained from harassing, abusing, bothering, threatening, or interfering with the other party and from entering upon or attempting to enter upon the other party’s residence or place of employment.”
In August of 2003,
The family court issued a rule to show cause, and Young was served. Young responded by, among other things, denying a violation of the restraining order. The contempt hearing was held on February 12, 2004. Although
At the hearing,
By a bench order dated February 12, 2004, the family court held Young in willful contempt of the restraining order, sentenced him to three months in jail, suspended upon 30 days service, and ordered Young to pay
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In appeals from the family court, this court has jurisdiction to find facts in accordance with our own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Murdock v. Murdock, 338 S.C. 322, 328, 526 S.E.2d 241, 244-45 (Ct. App. 1999). However, a finding of contempt should not be reversed on appeal unless it is without evidentiary support or amounts to an abuse of discretion. Stone v. Reddix-Smalls, 295 S.C. 514, 516, 369 S.E.2d 840, 840 (1988).
In the final written order, the family court referred to Young’s contempt as “civil” in nature although the sanction, a definite period of incarceration, is indisputably indicative of criminal contempt. No one argues on appeal that the contempt sentence was civil in nature. Because the family court’s March 3, 2004, order erroneously characterizes the contempt as civil, Young argues this court should reverse the family court. We disagree.
Contempt results from the willful disobedience of an order of the court, and before a court may hold a person in contempt, the record must clearly and specifically demonstrate the acts or conduct upon which such a finding is based. Curlee v. Howle, 277 S.C. 377, 382, 287 S.E.2d 915, 918 (1982). A willful act is “one done voluntarily and intentionally with the specific intent to do something the law forbids, or with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done; that is to say with bad purpose either to disobey or disregard the law.” State v. Bevilacqua, 316 S.C. 122, 129, 447 S.E.2d 213, 217 (Ct. App. 1994) (quoting Spartanburg County Dep’t of Soc. Servs. v. Padgett, 296 S.C. 79, 82-83, 370 S.E.2d 872, 874 (1988)). Civil contempt must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Poston v. Poston, 331 S.C. 106, 113, 502 S.E.2d 86, 89 (1998). In a criminal contempt proceeding, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
The determining factor in resolving whether contempt is civil or criminal is the purpose for which the power is exercised, including the nature of the relief and the purpose for which the sentence is imposed. Poston, 331 S.C. at 111, 502 S.E.2d at 88.
“The purpose of civil contempt is ‘to coerce the defendant to do the thing required by the order for the benefit of the complainant.’”
“The primary purposes of criminal contempt are to preserve the court’s authority and to punish for disobedience of its orders.” Poston, 331 S.C. at 111, 502 S.E.2d at 88. A penalty for criminal contempt is unconditional and punitive in nature.
Here, the family court’s sanction was clearly criminal in nature. Young was ordered to serve three months, suspended upon thirty days service, and had no ability to purge himself of the sentence. The judge’s comments from the bench—and resulting bench order—establish that the purpose of the contempt sentence was to punish Young for his violation of the restraining order. The family court judge stated:
weighing all of the evidence that she [Davis] has presented, including that of her witness, I find that he was in violation of a court order on at least the occasion when the red truck was observed there by the eyewitness who testified . . . and I believe places him there in violation of the court order.
That the subsequent order of March 3, 2004, contained language erroneously characterizing the contempt as civil in nature does not change the nature of the contempt itself, which was clearly punitive.
We are firmly convinced the family court judge applied the correct burden of proof—beyond a reasonable doubt. This is especially so when we consider the judge’s comments from the bench at the conclusion of the February 12, 2004, hearing. Moreover, our review of the record indicates
Although the family court incorrectly characterized Young’s contempt as civil in the March 3, 2004, order, we find this mistake does not constitute reversible error. The sanction for the contempt was criminal in nature, and ample evidence exists on the record to support a finding of criminal contempt. Therefore, the order of the family court is
GOOLSBY, HUFF and KITTREDGE, JJ., concur.
 As noted above, neither party to this appeal argues the contempt sentence was actually civil in nature. Indeed, at the time the family court issued its March 3, 2004, written order, Young did not see the need to petition the family court for reconsideration or clarification of the discrepancy he now claims warrants a finding of reversible error.