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Indirect Criminal Contempt Under the Protection From Abuse Act

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A person subjected to an arrest for an indirect criminal contempt of a PFA has certain rights.

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By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Protection From Abuse lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

Where the police or the plaintiff have filed charges of indirect criminal contempt against a defendant for violation of a protection order issued under the Protection From Abuse Act, a foreign protection order, or a court-approved consent agreement, the court may hold the defendant in indirect criminal contempt and punish the defendant in accordance with law.

Definition:Indirect criminal contempt ("ICC")

An ICC is a contempt that occurs outside the presence of the court. That is, it consists of the violation of an order or decree of a court that occurs outside the presence of the court.  When a protection-from-abuse order is involved, a charge of indirect criminal contempt is designed to seek punishment for violation of the protective order. 

What Procedures Must Occur When a Violation is Alleged?

Pursuant to statute, an arrest for violation of an iorder and may be without a warrant upon probable cause whether or not a violation has occurred.  This is typical where it is committed in the presence of an officer, however, it is not essential.  The officer may verify the existence of a PFA order via phone and arrest based upon communication with the issuing authority.

Following arrest, the defendant must be taken to the court in the judicial district where the contempt is alleged to have occurred.  The defendant has the right to a preliminary arraignment without unnecessary delay.  A hearing shall be scheduled within 10 days of the filing of a charge or complaint.  23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6113.

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