Saturday, July 30, 2005

On the criminal contempt prosecution of the Petersburg sheriff

The power struggle between a local sheriff and court officials reached the Virginia Court of Appeals, as it considered a number of issues related to the criminal contempt conviction of the sheriff in Epps v. Com. In an opinion by Judge Frank, the Court held: (1) the court order with which the sheriff had refused to comply was not void, (2) the trial court erred in allowing the testimony of a sitting judge as evidence against the sheriff, (3) the ambiguity as to whether the contempt proceedings were civil or criminal was not ambiguous enough for the sheriff to show that his rights to the protections of criminal procedure were violated, and (4) notwithstanding his limited funds, the sheriff had no impossibility defense to the charge of contempt, as he could have complied with the order.

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