When Civil Proceedings Aren’t Enough: Initiating Indirect Criminal Contempt Proceedings for Civil Protection Order Violations

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

American Society of Criminology


San Francisco, CA

Conference Dates

November 13-16, 2019

Date of Presentation



Civil protection orders (POs) have become an increasingly popular remedy for victims of domestic violence with roughly one million POs issued each year. In issuing a PO, the court typically imposes conditions to limit contact between the victim (petitioner) and abuser (respondent). If these conditions are violated, however, the petitioner may ask the court to seek charges of indirect criminal contempt (ICC). Though POs are initiated in civil court, violations are handled in criminal court.

While researchers have examined the PO process as well as characteristics of parties and cases for whom POs are sought and ultimately issued, relatively little attention has been paid to court-reported PO violations and subsequent ICC proceedings. Using 355 case files from St. Louis County Court I examine the nature of court-reported violations as well as the timing of these reports. Understanding what violations are commonly cited among petitioners as well as when these violations are likely to occur should help court administrators amend the conditions of POs to better protect for the safety of petitioners.

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