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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / “Gabby Petito Act” Proposed In Florida Senate

“Gabby Petito Act” Proposed In Florida Senate


It is a sad truism that many victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) pay the ultimate price, often because the system simply fails them. The 2021 murder of Gabby Petito caused awareness of this issue to rise, but very little changed in the legal system. In early December 2023, two Florida legislators used the recent anniversary of her passing as a spur to file the “Gabby Petito Act” in the Florida Senate. The bill is being touted as a way to more accurately pinpoint potential lethality in domestic violence situations.

Lethality Assessments For IPV Calls

Petito was murdered by her boyfriend in 2021, not long after the couple was stopped in Utah having an argument that might have qualified as a domestic dispute. Petito told police that her boyfriend had laid hands on her, but no officer investigated that allegation further, or sought to ensure her safety. The Florida bill would establish a statewide mandate requiring a lethality assessment when law enforcement is investigating a domestic violence incident.

Lethality assessments were developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV), and they are 11-question screening tools designed to assess the potential danger for an individual during a domestic violence incident. The law enforcement officer handling the call can offer assistance to the person who is allegedly in danger, and try to put them in touch with services while preserving their safety. While sometimes, these assessments are incorrect, statistics do show that they are helpful in reducing the level of violence experienced for many individuals.

Stay Calm!

While the idea of required lethality assessments has its drawbacks, the proponents of the bill argue that it is important to establish potential documentation of violence before any charges involving IPV are filed, or, conversely, to intimidate a potential abuser out of actually committing violence. If law enforcement had been required to conduct lethality assessments on Petito’s ex-boyfriend every time they wound up engaged in a domestic dispute, it might have raised suspicion when Petito suddenly vanished, with him being the last to see her alive.

If you are ever in a domestic violence situation and you find yourself the target of a lethality assessment, please know that the best thing you can do in such a situation is to keep calm. Law enforcement have the right to investigate this type of incident, and simply letting them do so is almost always the best choice in such a highly-charged situation. An attorney can help to protect your rights.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

While as of this writing, the “Gabby Petito Act” has not yet become law, it has a chance of passing through the legislature. If you have been charged with domestic violence, a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney is crucial to have on your side, to ensure that you get your day in court. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.



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