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protective custody

n. the act of law enforcement officials in placing a person in a government facility or foster home in order to protect him/her from a dangerous person or situation. Most commonly a child who has been neglected or battered or is in danger from a violent person is taken in as a temporary ward of the state and held in probation facilities or placed in a foster home until a court can decide the future placement of the child. Protective custody is sometimes used to help women threatened by a husband, boyfriend or a stalker, and also for witnesses who have been threatened with physical harm or death if they testify.

The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications